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February 15, 2021

SEMI Smart Mobility Lead Weighs in on Chip Shortage

In my role as lead for the Smart Mobility initiative at SEMI, I recently spoke with Automotive Logistics Magazine about the growing importance of the semiconductor supply chain’s connection with the automotive industry and the semiconductor shortage hampering global automotive production. Following are excerpts from the interview.

Automotive Logistics: Why is there a bottleneck in the global supply of semiconductors at the moment and how long is it likely to last?

Bettina Weiss PhotoWeiss: The current automotive chip shortage resulted from the sharp, Covid-19-induced decrease in demand for automotive semiconductors in the second quarter of last year when vehicle production came to a near standstill. The automotive market picked up significantly in the fourth quarter and this caused the supply chain constraints we are seeing today.

At the same time as the automotive standstill, the pandemic spurred an increase in demand for home computing and networking equipment, and semiconductor manufacturing plants (fabs) had to pivot to these other markets in order to maximize fab utilization and successfully navigate economic headwinds. Every minute a semiconductor fab is idle or has lines down adds up quickly to missed revenue, so their capacity is booked weeks and even months in advance.

With this background, I don’t believe this is a structural shortage and expect a gradual recovery over the next two quarters, barring any major shifts in geopolitics or macroeconomics.

Automotive Logistics: What needs to be done to remedy the current shortfall for the automotive industry?

Weiss: The automotive industry needs to continue to strengthen its connections to the semiconductor manufacturing supply chain. In past years, auto manufacturers used to rely mainly on their tier one suppliers to interface with the semiconductor supply chain. This has changed significantly. Not only are more chips being used in vehicles (roughly 10% of all devices produced globally end up in cars), but the strategic importance of the chips as enablers for ADAS [advanced driver-assistance systems], electrification, safety, connectivity and other consumer-driven features has increased considerably.

Smart Mobility QuoteWith this dynamic in play, carmakers have recognized the value of interacting and collaborating more closely with the semiconductor supply chain. This provides vehicle OEMs with access to innovation, the ability to influence technology direction and pace, along with greater visibility into global supply chain developments. The SEMI Smart Mobility initiative is evidence of this transition, with the likes of Audi, BMW, Ford, Uber, Volkswagen and other vehicle OEMs, along with tier one suppliers such as Continental and Bosch, now actively involved in our automotive electronics and mobility activities to do exactly that – influence, partner, accelerate and guide the global electronics design and manufacturing supply chain that SEMI represents.

Automotive Logistics: What percentage of semiconductors manufactured for use by US-based companies are for automotive applications and how has this grown in recent years?

Weiss: A little over 10% of semiconductors produced worldwide are sold into the automotive segment, but this number is expected to grow at an accelerated pace in the next few years as electrification, connectivity and autonomous driving become more prevalent.

Automotive Logistics: How is SEMI working to help the automotive industry get a clearer view of sub-component supply and better manage supply chain risk?

Weiss: The SEMI Smart Mobility initiative is designed to engage automotive OEMs, tier ones, semiconductor device makers, design houses, and equipment and materials companies to drive alignment across the supply chain and address shared challenges collectively. To facilitate this engagement, we created the Global Automotive Advisory Council (GAAC), which has active chapters in Europe, US, China, Smart Mobility LogoJapan and Taiwan. The GAAC provides an open platform for creating solutions, fostering collaboration and partnering with other industry bodies to accelerate and harmonize industry efforts that benefit the entire ecosystem. Volkswagen and Audi are already SEMI members – both are founding members of the GAAC Europe chapter – and have become vocal champions and critical contributors to our efforts. When all stakeholders work together, I have no doubt that the future of automotive and mobility will continue to be bright.

Interested in learning more about this topic? Read the full interview in Automotive Logistics Magazine, A Fab Future for the Automotive Sector.

Please contact me at bweiss@semi.org for more information about SEMI’s Smart Mobility Initiative, the Global Automotive Advisory Council, and how SEMI can help your organization navigate electronics in the automotive industry to drive innovation in the mobility space.

Bettina Weiss is Chief of Staff and Global Smart Mobility Lead at SEMI.