Japanese auto chip firm Renesas Electronics has turned to TSMC for help, after a fire broke out on its 12-inch wafer production line last month. According to Japanese media, TSMC has agreed to take on a part of the company''s production commitments. Experts say it may be half a year before production at Renesas fully recovers. That''s bad news for the automotive sector, which is already struggling with a global semiconductor shortage.

Amid a global shortage of automotive chips, countries have turned to Taiwan for help. Now, a major Japanese chipmaker, Renesas Electronics, is also placing orders with Taiwan’s TSMC.

NHK News
According to an insider report, major global supplier TSMC has agreed to increase production to meet demand from Renesas. In response to requests from Renesas and the Japanese government, the supplier is considering moving its shipment date up, and delivering the chips early.

Renesas holds roughly one-third of the automotive chip market. However, in March, a fire at the company’s factory in Ibaraki Prefecture destroyed 5% of the factory’s semiconductor cleanroom. More than 20 of the factories’ machines used to produce automotive microcontrollers were destroyed in the blaze, throwing the production schedule into disarray.

Hidetoshi Shibata (March 30)
Renesas Electronics CEO
Around the second half of April, we will probably see supply come to a halt.

Renesas estimates that full recovery of production levels will take at least three or four months. Some experts have a more pessimistic outlook, estimating that half a year is needed. The company says its store of chips may only last until the end of April. It has moved some production to facilities in Ehime Prefecture, and is also outsourcing production to other countries including Taiwan.

NHK News
Renesas aims to resume production by the 19th, but for levels to reach those before the fire will take several months. In the meantime, car manufacturers will see a slowdown in production.

Car companies were already dealing with a chip shortage, and the situation is about to get worse. Subaru and Suzuki scaled back production earlier this month. Nissan, Honda and Volkswagen announced production halts on Wednesday. Now, five factories in the U.S. and one in Turkey are also halting production. With chip demand showing no signs of abating, it seems the car industry’s plight will not be resolved soon.