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Kokomo lot packed with pickups awaiting missing microchips

The packed parking lot at the old GM plant is a sign that the semi-conductor chip shortage is still an issue.

KOKOMO, Ind. — It looks like a jam-packed car lot, but none of the pickup trucks parked at the old GM plant in Kokomo are ready to hit the road.

If nothing else shows that the chip shortage is still going on, it's that scene: row after row of vehicles, surrounding the building, just sitting in storage.

Retired Delco engineer Tim Gasaway hasn't just heard about the chip shortage.

"Oh yeah. Yeah, heard, read, looked at," he said.

He's had a front-row seat to the situation for the past two years. Thousands of trucks are parked at the old GM plant right across from his house.

"There's about 3,000 in that lot right there. When they were filling it up, they were running almost 24/7," Gasaway said.

The full lot stretches around the plant.

There are so many there — all missing a microchip — that DroneCam 13 couldn't even capture the full capacity with a shot from the air.

It's in stark contrast to nearby dealerships that are experiencing high demand, but low supply.

It's happened before — over and over again, Kokomo residents say, the lot fills up every few months.

Gasaway has seen it at least twice.

"Oh yeah, this is the second time this lot's been loaded," he said. "Two or three months ago, it was pretty well empty except for about a half a dozen vehicles and then all of a sudden it started showing up again. I mean to me, it's just inventory control."

And a sign the semi-conductor chip shortage is still an issue.

RELATED: Biden signs $280B CHIPS act in bid to boost US-made computer parts

Vijay Raghunathan, a professor of electrical and computer engineering at Purdue University, wasn't surprised, but said the scene is still jarring.

"It's more common than we'd like to see," Raghunathan said. "It is sort of surreal that something so little as a computer microchip can have such a big implication of seeing 3,000 or more unfinished trucks just sitting there."

A GM spokesperson for Fort Wayne's assembly plant told 13News that things are actually getting better.

Jeffrey Benzing said they continue to see the improvement in the availability of semiconductors, that they expect production volume to go up 25% to 30% over last year and they're expecting vehicles, strained by the supply chain, to be completed by year's end.

Raghunathan agreed, saying industry analysts believe the problem will get better — slowly.

"I think 2022 was substantially better than 2021. Hopefully, 2023 will be substantially better than 2022," he said.

A permanent fix, Raghunathan said, won't happen fast.

RELATED: State and top US officials gather at Purdue signaling change for Indiana technology

But Indiana leaders, corporate partners and Purdue University are working on it.

Recently, there have been several big announcements about new investments and creating new homegrown talent to design and create what's needed.

"In general, I think the Midwest region, including Indiana, is poised to become what people now refer to as the silicon heartland," Raghunathan said. "So we are certainly playing our role in making sure that that supply chain is gonna stay robust and will stay robust for a long time to come."

In the meantime, he said the scene playing out in a Kokomo parking lot will likely happen again, to Tim Gasaway's dismay.

"Get 'em out of here," Gasaway said with a laugh.

The former engineer just wishes he didn't have to watch.

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