Car Chip Shortage Hits US Shores

Bertel Schmitt
by Bertel Schmitt
car chip shortage hits us shores

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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  • Allegro con moto-car Allegro con moto-car on Jul 13, 2010

    Nissan is stopping production at Smyrna because of a shortage of chips, or a shortage of sales?

  • Redmondjp Redmondjp on Jul 13, 2010

    Ouch! I saw this yesterday but didn't comment on it. Does anybody realize how much $$$ this is costing Nissan? You're talking (lots of) thousands of $ per hour to have a plant closed down. I worked at Delco Electronics (Kokomo, IN) during college as a co-op student, and every single GM assembly plant depended upon multiple products from our company (radios, engine ECMs, ignition modules, MAP sensors, HVAC control heads, alternator voltage regulators). I worked in purchasing followup for a 6-week stint and WOW was that stressful! Six out of the ten people in my department chain-smoked, all day long (this was in 1985 when you could still smoke inside) so I smoked whether I wanted to or not. We would charter private planes to FLY parts to us from our suppliers if necessary, as that was far less expensive than shutting down one or more assembly plants which, even in 1985, did not maintain more than a few days' worth of parts on-hand. You can bet that the purchasing department at the ECM manufacturer has put Hitachi on their s_ _t list, but as has been said above, when you design around a specific chip (which can't be helped - all electronics are done this way now) you seldom can directly replace it. Shoot, back in the days of discrete logic chips (think 7400 series), even some vendors' chips would work while others would not even though they were "equivalent" parts!

    • Adam Fuller Adam Fuller on Jul 13, 2010

      I work in a completely different industry, but we are also seeing component shortage issues that may prove to be extremely detrimental to the ongoing health of our firm.

  • PeriSoft PeriSoft on Jul 13, 2010

    I see that the Just In Time fad has worn thin, and is being replaced by Not In Time...

    • Adam Fuller Adam Fuller on Jul 13, 2010

      Exactly. I tend to prefer the phrase, "Just in Time? More like Just Isn't There." Seriously though, for the most part JIT implementations assume a perfect world with little forethought given to accidents, weather, natural disasters, human error, etc. I can't take JIT seriously due to this inflexibility.

  • John Horner John Horner on Jul 13, 2010

    I wonder if this is a consequences of the entire supply chain slamming on the brakes during carmageddon? Now that global automotive demand is recovering it isn't surprising to see spot shortages of critical components. The entire industry spent two years slashing and burning capacity from top to bottom. Sometimes it is very hard to get volume moving again. I wonder if it will ever leak exactly which sub-component of Hitachi's ECU is causing the problem.

    • See 1 previous
    • European European on Jul 13, 2010

      @RW this is purely guessing, but maybe it has got something to do with AMD being sheduled to bring new chipsets to the market (or even Intel, but for AMD i'm positively sure).