Markets Work, but Untangling Global Supply Chains Takes Time

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Now, there are higher prices for base materials like steel and aluminum. There are suppliers being forced to raise wages sharply to keep assembly lines operating. There are semiconductor manufacturers stretched too thin to provide enough computer chips to make as many cars as consumers wish to buy. There have even been shortages of resin, needed in the plastics that are part of a car, caused by Texas winter storms this year. And adding to it all, there are logjams of shipping capacity for materials imported from overseas.

“It’s almost like a patient who’s fighting cancer and heart disease and diabetes all at the same time,” Mr. Burris said. The power that automakers usually hold to dissuade suppliers from increasing prices is breaking down, he said, amid the urgency to obtain supplies.

And as automakers throttle production, there have been unusual dynamics in the retail side of the market.

The inability of automakers to produce at full speed,…

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