Automakers in Japan are slowly crawling back to normal. However, they are in for another after shock, and this one could be quite serious: Yasushi Akao, President of chipmaker Renesas said today that supplies of microcontrollers from his company will be in serious trouble come June. According to The Nikkei [sub], â€śstocks are expected to run out next month as operations at the firm’s Naka plant in Ibaraki Prefecture have been suspended since the Great East Japan Earthquake on March 11.â€ťÂ Renesas microcontrollers are the chips of choice of many car companies who use them in their on-board electronics. Toyota is known to be a large customer of Renesas.
Why the shortage with a 3 months delay after the earthquake? As reported earlier, chips take months to â€śgrow.â€ť The Naka fab of Renesas accounts for about 25 percent of its global automotive microcontroller capacity. It had been closed after the earthquake. Naka is whatâ€™s called a â€śfront-end lineâ€ť fab, which does the early steps of IC production. The fab is scheduled to re-open in June.
But: Chips started from scratch in June will ship sometime in August â€“ if left unimpeded by power outages. The supply that runs out in June is mostly from production that had been started before the quake. There will be a dry season for chips through early fall.
As previously announced, Renesas will ration the chips, or make that, â€śsupply microcontrollers to its customers based on historical business ties,â€ť as Akao put it.