Japan car makers scramble to assess impact of Renesas auto chip plant fire

23 March, 2021 12:00 AM printer

TOKYO: Toyota, Nissan, Honda and other Japanese automakers scrambled on Monday to assess the production impact of a fire at a Renesas Electronics automotive chip plant that could aggravate a global semiconductor shortage.

“We are gathering information and trying to see if this will affect us or not,” a Honda spokesman said. Other car makers including Toyota and Nissan said they too were assessing the situation, report agencies.

The effect on car makers could spread beyond Japan to other auto companies in Europe and the United States because Renesas has around a 30 per cent global share of micro control unit chips used in cars.

Renesas said it will take at least a month to restart production on a 300mm wafer line at its Naka plant in northeast Japan after an electrical fault caused machinery to catch fire on Friday and poured smoke into the sensitive clean room.

Two-thirds of production at the affected line is automotive chips. The company also has a 200mm wafer line at the Naka plant, which has not been affected.

Concerns on the impact of the fire on production sent auto shares sliding in Tokyo on Monday, with the big three, Toyota, Honda and Nissan, down more than 3.3 per cent. Renesas shares tumbled as much as 5.5 per cent and ended 4.9 per cent. The benchmark Topix index shed nearly 1 per cent.

“It will probably take more than a month to return to normal supply. Given that, even Toyota will face very unstable production in April and May,” said Seiji Sugiura, senior analyst at Tokai Tokyo Research Institute. “I think Honda, Nissan and other makers will also be facing a difficult situation.”

Semiconductors such as those made by Renesas are used extensively in cars, including to monitor engine performance, manage steering or automatic windows, and in sensors used in parking and entertainment systems.


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