To say the semiconductor shortage has been a royal pain in the derrière would be a massive understatement since it has disrupted the automotive industry as much as the coronavirus pandemic, if not more. BMW, like nearly all automakers, has also been affected by the lack of microchips, and experts project the problem won’t be going away until sometime next year at the earliest.
Meanwhile, BMW has to make a decision – either to stop production of some cars due to the chip crunch or continue assembly by yanking out some features. It’s choosing plan B for the 3 Series, 4 Series Coupe / Convertible / Gran Coupe (but not i4), Z4, as well as the X5, X6, and X7 SUVs. All of these models are being built without touchscreen functionality. Just so we’re clear, the cars still have the display, but the driver and front passenger can no longer operate the infotainment by using the screen. Instead, they’ll have to rely on the iDrive controller mounted between the seats. It’s a good thing BMW still offers redundant controls because otherwise owners would be left without a way to change settings.
The unusual decision originally emerged on the Bimmerfest forums where it was posted by the site’s founder. Edmunds then got in touch with BMW to confirm, which they did: “This measure is a result of the industry-wide supply chain issues which are affecting automotive manufacturing worldwide and causing limitations on the availability of some features or options.”
Cars losing the touchscreen functionality will have the window sticker showing Option Code 6UY “Deletion of Touchscreen” and affected owners are going to receive a $500 discount. In addition, impacted vehicles will need a software update (coming November 11) before being delivered to their rightful owners. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto will continue to work, so that’s good, but cars fitted with Parking Assistant Package (5DN/ZPK) are going to lose the Backup Assistant, which will also be reflected in the window sticker.
According to the post on Bimmerfest, which by the way was published by Jon Shafer working at BMW of Santa Maria, owners won’t be able to add the touchscreen functionality post-purchase, but it’s too soon to know for sure: “All indications are that dealer retrofit will not be a viable option based on what I am seeing.”
Whether the $500 incentive will be enough to make up for the absence of such an important feature remains to be seen, especially in the case of an X7 with a starting price of $74,900. Seeing the glass half full, it could’ve been worse. BMW could have simply stopped production of those models altogether, thus without giving customers the freedom to choose between buying or not buying a car without a working touchscreen.