The Truth About Cars » chips http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Sat, 13 Sep 2014 17:39:32 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.9.2 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars editors@ttac.com editors@ttac.com (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » chips http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/wp-content/themes/ttac-theme/images/logo.gif http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com Vellum Venom: Honda N600 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/08/vellum-venom-honda-n600/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/08/vellum-venom-honda-n600/#comments Mon, 04 Aug 2014 12:57:25 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=880466 What’s the difference between car design and styling? My stint at CCS in Detroit makes me think styling is the shallow, frilly, cosmetic side of car design. Freshman designers are (were?) trained to focus on styling, but anyone integrating with marketing/accounting/engineering departments after school knows the real deal. They gotta know car design. The folly […]

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What’s the difference between car design and styling? My stint at CCS in Detroit makes me think styling is the shallow, frilly, cosmetic side of car design. Freshman designers are (were?) trained to focus on styling, but anyone integrating with marketing/accounting/engineering departments after school knows the real deal. They gotta know car design.

The folly of a sheltered life aside (don’t us delusional autobloggers know it?) the Honda N600’s heavily constrained blueprint came to life with nearly to zero style.

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Is this a golf cart with mad retro styling? Those pub style tables could seemingly support the N600’s shockingly small footprint. Except not, but compare the N600’s seats to the chairs. Then note how “open” the greenhouse is relative to the diminutive body underneath. Like many of our younger readers, I never saw an N600 in person…they actually sold a car this small in America?

photo credit: imcbd.org

My only recollection of the N600 was “CHiPs” reruns as a kid. Watching a huge guy destroy a perfectly servicable machine horrified took me aback, yet most viewers probably found it entertaining.

Be it Architecture, Graphic, Product or Car design; I wonder if designers recoil in horror when their art (so to speak) extends past its prime in such a public manner. It’s gotta hurt.

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To see it is to understand the term “bare bones.” With a healthy smattering of chrome, that is. The N600 cleanly mounts headlight pods, a toothy grille and a subtle emblem into its tiny body. The signal lights are an unfortunate afterthought. But the massive bumper must be a last minute addition for the American market. It’s an interesting dynamic, but like damn near any car from the early-to-mid 70s, looks better with small bumpers.

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This emblem, like the bodywork, has been refinished. This blend of midcentury modern in the “H” with a prominent model designation within a clean wedge of a badge does work. But the dual grille texture (metal bars with latticework behind) is an unexpected surprise, adding depth and…um…excitement?

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Shame about the protective bumper tubing: note how the hood tapers down to the grille and effortlessly surrounds the headlight’s northern hemisphere. Without that merry-go-round grab handle, the N600 would be an appealing little car.

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Even better, there’s no odd cut line separating the front fascia from the headlights. And there’s the hood’s logical end point at the headlight’s center line. This ability to hide cut lines at natural transition points is something we love in today’s Aston Martin, and rarely elsewhere.

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Too bad Aston craftsmanship is so damn expensive: exposed bolts/screws and slip-fit panels are the marks of a super cheap whip.

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This wee machine can’t fit all its mechanical bits inside the body!

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I’m enamored with the N600 from this angle: looking like the Plymouth from Stephen King’s “Christine.”

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Sadly all the subtle integration, the blend of flat planes and voluptuous curves of the front end absolutely disappear once you turn the corner. VW Beetles and MINI Coopers rest easy: this is design over styling.

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Some strange bits: the blocky, stagnant negative area making a hood valley, on something small enough to need no contouring for curbside appeal. And the teardrop bulge, which I was couldn’t verify was needed, as the hood wouldn’t open. A tricky latch, that!

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The washer nozzle is adorable.

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The hood vents cleanly integrate into the N600’s form, even if they shouldn’t need to “fight” the valley in the hood. The simple cowl treatment looks clean, staying that way those who battle snowfall or falling leaves/debris.

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Wait, where did all the round-ish and somewhat appealing style go? Uber static lines! Gone, in the name of design?

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Afterthought chrome aside (needed for chrome hungry Americans?), there’s nothing appealing from this angle. It’s in stark contrast to the front.

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Much like the grille’s emblem, the N600’s hubcap makes a strong statement in its minimal form: that Mad Men worthy Honda emblem inside a “keystone” perimeter with a subtle lip at the cap’s edge is a nice touch. The size of the hubcap relative to the wheel makes it close to a full wheel cover, and more chrome here means the N600 is less warehouse trolley-like.

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SITTIN ON KUMHO TENZ, Y U HATIN SON???

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The N600 is cleaner/faster looking without the chrome spear. And note again how large the greenhouse is relative to the body: necessary considering the N600’s cramped cockpit.

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Practical says the decal? Some Americans embraced the N600’s appeal, but Detroit ruled the roost back in the early 1970s. They had size, and style. The N600’s uncanny ability to lack any sense of style a la VW Beetle, Mini Cooper or Fiat 500 musta hurt sales.

To wit, note how the A-B-C pillars lack a cohesive flow in terms of complementary rake, size and shape.

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The fender emblem possesses similar elements to the one on the grille, but with unique textures/topography. It’s cooler than the front emblem.

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Clearly a victim of an almost-professional restoration, yet I suspect door/rocker panel gaps weren’t laser perfect back then anyway.

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The A-pillar is rather fast and sleek on its own, not to mention the full length rain gutter accentuating the speedy demeanor. The windshield rubber is another sign of a lost era…for good reason.

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Poor paint/body work, but still more appealing than a modern car’s black plastic triangle of A-pillar DLO fail.

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Not only does the B-pillar fail to emulate the A-pillar, it’s not symmetric! Square off the lower portion of the quarter window (or round the door) and curb appeal increases.

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While the integrated release button/key cylinder is trick and space efficient, the flat profile and lumpy negative area do not help with the N600’s lack of cohesive style. Is there any room for style on this machine?

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Real estate for a fuel door is in Manhattan-grade short supply on the N600’s body.

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It doesn’t get more honest than a roof-mounted antenna, perfectly mounting on a curved shape. Nice.

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While the front end’s roundness was a stark contrast to the fender’s solidarity, the N600’s middle section softens up thanks to a modicum of tumblehome (seen in the door cutaway) from the base of the door to the roof.

Curves, they are a good thing.

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Imagine how much more “wrong” the N600 would look without that tumblehome from this angle!

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While the tail light flows into the body like that clean roof antenna, the rain gutter, molding and vent louver are necessary(?) afterthoughts.

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But it’s quite fetching by itself!

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The N600’s proto-CVCC DNA is showing! The taillights and trunk cutout is a nice cross between pre-war automobile construction (exposed hinges and a bustle trunk) and the future of hatchback design once a little more rear overhang was deemed necessary.

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The back end’s flattened demeanor is very MINI Clubman, without the charm. Or the functionality, thanks to the fixed rear glass. Luckily there were no Sam’s clubs back then.

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The pudgy, cheeky contour of the trunk is both ungainly and adorable at the same time. Design over Styling!

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Nice bit of retro kit functional design for the grab handle, I was tempted to fix the logo’s problem with a Testors enamel marker.

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Quickly glance at this shot and you’d be forgiven for thinking this is a whip from L.A. Noire.

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Logical and well-designed license plate light, note the exposed screws that’ll make bulb replacement a breeze. Hopefully.

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Exposed hinges in the 1970s? No wonder that dude on “CHiPs” ripped it apart so easily!

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There’s a material heft and functional beauty presented in the lock cylinder’s one piece, polished design. Pictures fail to show the craftsmanship.

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Now let’s bring it home: no overhang is a big, BIG problem.

How can you “style” a design this restrictive? Imagine your job if your boss halved your budget. Or didn’t give you one in the first place! Therein lies the “beauty” of the N600, so to speak.

The Honda Civic that followed was a leap forward, the public’s reaction to Honda’s design and engineering prowess was logical. Because when you give enough room (literally and figuratively) to a design department, they will can make a nicely styled vehicle.

Thanks for reading, I hope you have a lovely week.

 

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California Offering Legacy License Plates http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/04/california-offering-legacy-license-plates/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/04/california-offering-legacy-license-plates/#comments Fri, 05 Apr 2013 14:31:14 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=483635 The California state DMV is offering motorists the chance to step back in time and order new license plates in historic color combinations. Your choices are black letters on a yellow background, yellow letters on a black background (the famous original black plates often found on California barn finds) and, my favorite – the color […]

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The California state DMV is offering motorists the chance to step back in time and order new license plates in historic color combinations.

Your choices are black letters on a yellow background, yellow letters on a black background (the famous original black plates often found on California barn finds) and, my favorite – the color combination synonymous with the 1970s, Disco, leisure suits and “CHiPs,” – yellow letters on a blue background.

The program requires a minimum of 7500 paid pre-orders prior to January 1, 2015, but the DMV’s information states that, once that magic number of has been hit, the program will begin immediately so the wait for your new plates may be substantially less than it first appears. The best news is that you don’t have to own a classic car to get that classic look. But it helps!

http://www.dmv.ca.gov/legacyplates/index.htm

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Japanese Parts Paralysis: Bad Bets With Chips http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/07/japanese-parts-paralysis-bad-bets-with-chips/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/07/japanese-parts-paralysis-bad-bets-with-chips/#comments Thu, 21 Jul 2011 15:55:42 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=403784 Why was Honda as much hit as Toyota by the March11 earthquake and tsunami? Doesn’t Honda have the bulk of its production outside of Japan? How could Nissan avoid most of the damage, even with an engine factory close to Fukushima? It was a bit like a roulette game, and it involved a lot of […]

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Why was Honda as much hit as Toyota by the March11 earthquake and tsunami? Doesn’t Honda have the bulk of its production outside of Japan? How could Nissan avoid most of the damage, even with an engine factory close to Fukushima?

It was a bit like a roulette game, and it involved a lot of chips.  According to industry talk in Japan, Nissan had taken a large supply of ECU chips before the quake. Honda and Toyota were waiting for their just-in-time delivery.  Honda and Toyota received most of their engine controller chips from one chipmaker, Renesas. Two weeks after the catastrophe, we had pointed out that Renesas and its damaged fab near the epicenter would turn into a major bottleneck. What’s more, Honda had no idea.

Honda bought its engine computers from three different companies, Keihin, Denso and Hitachi Automotive. Honda thought that it was well diversified. What  Honda did not realize at first was that the chips in the controllers were all from the same company: Renesas.

“Before the quake, automakers were trying to diversify their suppliers,” writes The Nikkei [sub] today. “But the troubles at Renesas revealed that when they looked farther down the supply chain — at indirect suppliers — they had in fact actually been relying on single firms for certain components.”

Honda did not have a problem with its V6 engines, which use chips by U.S.  Freescale Semiconductor. More that 80 percent of Honda’s cars volume is small and midsize cars. They usually use in-line four-cylinder engines, and it turned out than in most of their ECUs were microcontrollers supplied by Renesas.

Starting this fall, Honda will begin to use microcontrollers from other manufacturers for some of its models. What’s more there is a drive under way that seeks to standardize common parts across the Japanese industry, and microcontrollers are the ideal target. The firmware in the controllers can change, but the chips can be supplied from multiple manufacturers.

 

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Japanese Parts Paralysis: And Now, The Great Chip Famine http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/05/japanese-parts-paralysis-and-now-the-great-chip-famine/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/05/japanese-parts-paralysis-and-now-the-great-chip-famine/#comments Wed, 18 May 2011 13:23:25 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=395303 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], “stocks are expected to […]

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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], “stocks 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.”  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 “grow.” 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 what’s called a “front-end line” 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 – 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, “supply microcontrollers to its customers based on historical business ties,” as Akao put it.

 

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Japanese Parts Paralysis: Renesas Rations Chips For Toyota, Nissan And Honda http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/04/japanese-parts-paralysis-renesas-rations-chips-for-toyota-nissan-and-honda/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/04/japanese-parts-paralysis-renesas-rations-chips-for-toyota-nissan-and-honda/#comments Thu, 14 Apr 2011 10:36:16 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=391287 Yesterday’s good news from strategically important  Japanese automotive chip maker Renesas did not last long. Now for the bad news: Their automotive microcontroller chips will be strictly rationed when they eventually ship. This being Japan, it is said more politely: Renesas is “thinking about the development of voluntary rules for major automakers,” as Japan’s Yomiuri […]

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Yesterday’s good news from strategically important  Japanese automotive chip maker Renesas did not last long. Now for the bad news: Their automotive microcontroller chips will be strictly rationed when they eventually ship. This being Japan, it is said more politely: Renesas is “thinking about the development of voluntary rules for major automakers,” as Japan’s Yomiuri Shimbun puts it.

The paper expects a “severe shortage of electronic parts”  fort this summer,  especially in the area of engine and brake control. The shortage could “eventually spread to other industries as well.”  Auto majors Toyota , Nissan and Honda will devise a system to share the limited supply of microcontrollers, says the Yomiuri.

Moving a whole corporation from Windows to Mac sounds trivial compared to switching automotive chip suppliers. “I see too many problems trying to replace these devices,” Matteo Fini, senior analyst at IHS Automotive, told CNET. Engine control units are designed to match the characteristics of a particular power train, Automakers use different programming languages, the computer chips have a different pin-out.

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Culprit Of Chip Shortage Found, Automaker Hunting Down Chips http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/07/culprit-of-chip-shortage-found/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/07/culprit-of-chip-shortage-found/#comments Wed, 14 Jul 2010 12:56:50 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=360824 We finally know who’s responsible for shutting down Nissan assembly lines in Japan and the U.S.A. The shortage of a critical computer chip stopped Hitachi from making ECUs, which in turn stopped Nissan from making cars. For days, the identity of the lackadaisical chipmaker had been kept under wraps. Now, the culprit has been unmasked. […]

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We finally know who’s responsible for shutting down Nissan assembly lines in Japan and the U.S.A. The shortage of a critical computer chip stopped Hitachi from making ECUs, which in turn stopped Nissan from making cars. For days, the identity of the lackadaisical chipmaker had been kept under wraps. Now, the culprit has been unmasked.

It is STMicroelectronics in Geneva, Switzerland. Yesterday, senior executives from Nissan and Hitachi on visited the offices of STMicroelectronics in Europe “for talks to seek an early resumption of full supplies,” reports The Nikkei [sub]. Apparently, the talks didn’t go too well, as evidenced by the fact that the name of the company is now out in the open.

The Nikkei says that STMicroelectronics had issued a notice on July 2 that it could supply only slightly more than 80 percent of the 120,000 chips for Nissan vehicles that it was supposed to ship under contract. Hitachi immediately dispatched personnel to Europe, but a senior official at Hitachi’s a said the STMicroelectronics did not provide a detailed explanation.

Hitachi supplies some 90 percent of its engine control units to Nissan. They are short of STM chips that control ignition coils.

STMicroelectronics also deliver to Bosch, Delphi, and Denso. Some Hitachi officials speculated that STMicroelectronics may have given precedence to other clients.

If chips are in short supply, then the auto industry must be doing quite well. Says The Nikkei in another story: “Alarmed by the growing prospects of a shortage of crucial chips for their products, many automakers are already taking steps to secure stable supply.” A spokesman of STM said that the recovery of the automotive business is taking place at a faster rate than expected and that the whole automotive electronics supply chain is currently under pressure to keep up with the market’s demand.

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Car Chip Shortage Hits US Shores http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/07/car-chip-shortage-hits-us-shores/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/07/car-chip-shortage-hits-us-shores/#comments Tue, 13 Jul 2010 15:24:34 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=360776 The shortage of a critical computer chip that Hitachi desperately needs to supply Nissan with ECUs  now threatens to affect U.S. production. Yesterday, Nissan warned that they will close down Japanese assembly lines. Today, Nissan COO Officer Toshiyuki Shiga said that production in the U.S. may be halted until the chip shortage is solved. “If […]

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The shortage of a critical computer chip that Hitachi desperately needs to supply Nissan with ECUs  now threatens to affect U.S. production. Yesterday, Nissan warned that they will close down Japanese assembly lines. Today, Nissan COO Officer Toshiyuki Shiga said that production in the U.S. may be halted until the chip shortage is solved.

“If there is any impact, (the factories that could be affected) would be our Smyrna plant (in Tennessee) and a plant in Mexico,” Toshiyuki Shiga told reporters. According to The Nikkei [sub] Hitachi informed Nissan on July 7 that supply would not be possible from the following week. Nissan had no way to switch to alternate channels. “It was a huge decision for us to halt production lines,” said Shiga said. Especially for something as small as an itty-bitty chip. Nissan uses Hitachi-made ECUs for “almost all models” it produced in the U.S. and Mexico, Shigha said.

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Chip Shortage Stops Nissan Assembly Lines http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/07/chip-shortage-stops-nissan-assembly-lines/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/07/chip-shortage-stops-nissan-assembly-lines/#comments Mon, 12 Jul 2010 13:51:18 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=360704 So far, it had been striking workers at Chinese parts suppliers that brought Japanese car makers to their knees, praying for parts needed to re-start the lines. Here is a new  twist: Japan’s Hitachi ran out of chips for ECUs (commonly called “car computers”). And Japanese carmakers are shutting down the lines. Nissan announced today […]

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So far, it had been striking workers at Chinese parts suppliers that brought Japanese car makers to their knees, praying for parts needed to re-start the lines. Here is a new  twist: Japan’s Hitachi ran out of chips for ECUs (commonly called “car computers”). And Japanese carmakers are shutting down the lines.

Nissan announced today they will suspend production lat four of their plants in Japan for at least two days (July 14 through July 16) while they wait for ECUs made by Hitachi. At least 15,000 cars are affected.

Hitachi in turn is waiting for their supplier. “The supply of a specific IC chip suddenly declined this month, and the supplier has yet to tell us why exactly this is happening,” said Hitachi executive managing director Yasuhiko Honda. He wouldn’t name the IC chip supplier.

Hitachi says the chip shortage affects Nissan “and two other Japanese automakers.”

The Nikkei [sub] immediately went on the hunt for the “two others.”

Subaru uses Hitachi ECUs but “has yet to confirm whether it is affected by the delay.”

The Nikkei is still on the prowl for the third victim of the chip constraint.

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