I-Team 8

Kokomo GM plant becomes storage lot for new trucks waiting for parts

KOKOMO, Ind. (WISH) — General Motors has been staging their trucks at a Kokomo facility on the south side of the Howard County city for a year.

I-Team 8 was told General Motors sends a crew to Kokomo with the parts needed to finish the trucks before they are taken to dealerships.

“You know, we used to make chips right here. It was a very high-tech facility,” Tim Gasaway said.

He lives right across the street from an old GM plant that many people in Kokomo remember as the “FAB” building, or the electronic assembly building. Delphi Automotive made semiconductors for GM in this building until 2017. It’s the same place Gasaway retired from in 2016.

The company said, at the time, they couldn’t compete on a global level.  

“Just like everything else that ended up going overseas, if you can, get something cheaper” Gasaway said.  

On Labor Day weekend last year, I-Team 8 showed this same lot in Kokomo filled with hundreds of new trucks. At the time, GM told us the microchip shortage was near the end.

Earlier this week, I-Team 8 took drone video and estimated around a thousand trucks in one parking lot, and another 250 in another lot, which is just a fraction of the 95,000 vehicles the company says it has waiting for parts.

Contributing to the parts shortage problem is the just-in-time inventory that auto manufacturers adopted in recent years. They no longer stockpile parts but, instead, rely on the supply chain to keep the assembly lines moving.

“My research is how to manage supply chains under uncertainty, and we have seen a huge increase in uncertainty in supply chains in the last couple years” Kyle Cattani, a professor at the IU Kelley School of Business in Bloomington, said.

The professor says the leaner inventory maintained by manufacturers works when everything is right in the world.

The COVID-19 pandemic proved the supply chain is vulnerable and may require some adjustments, such as making the chain shorter.   

“The longer your supply chain, like from here, stretching all the way across the globe, the more it is subject to the whims of all the uncertainty. It is going to be more easily disrupted. For some supply chains, it may make sense to bring more stuff close by” Cattani said.

General Motors responded to I-Team 8’s questions about the trucks in Kokomo.

“The semiconductor supply chain is still strained and susceptible to unexpected events. We are making good progress completing those vehicles, and expect to complete substantially all of the vehicles by the end of the year.”

Jeffrey Benzing, General Motors

In recent weeks, state and federal political figures have touted Indiana as the next semiconductor manufacturing hotbed.

SkyWater Technology is building a facility near Purdue University’s campus, and the state is investing millions into a high-tech research business park in Boone County. Neither will solve the current semiconductor supply chain issues but could shorten the supply chain for many Midwest manufacturers.