Automotive industry pioneering a new semiconductors supply model

Article By : Majeed Ahmad

Carmakers are teaming up with fabs and semiconductor vendors to create strategic partnerships that will ensure the long-term supply of chips.

Another interesting shift is in the works after system houses like Google and Tesla ventured into developing their own chips during the 2010s. After the IC shortage that especially rocked the automotive industry, carmakers are teaming up with fabs and semiconductor vendors to create strategic partnerships that will ensure the long-term supply of chips.

That’s evident from BMW’s tie-up with GlobalFoundries and chip developer Inova Semiconductors for a multi-year supply of chips for smart LEDs in the BMW iX car lineup. The intelligent smart embedded LED (ISELED) designs will employ these automotive-grade chips in iX models.

Source: ISELED

This new model, which aims to build a more resilient supply-chain partnership, will guarantee the supply of several million chips every year. Inova’s CEO Robert Kraus acknowledges that this model of direct collaboration with OEMs is new territory for semiconductor outfits. “It will ensure a high degree of planning security with the long production cycles of the chips.”

Besides the recent IC shortage, it’s evident that the share of electronic components in vehicles is likely to increase further in the future. So, GlobalFoundries, among other fabs, wants to buck this trend by building stronger relationships with the automotive industry. Earlier in November, the fab signed a similar chip supply pact with Ford.

Ford’s CEO Jim Farley called this strategic collaboration the beginning of a plan to vertically integrate key technologies and capabilities for ADAS, battery management systems, and in-vehicle networking. Here, GlobalFoundries will create additional manufacturing capacity for ensuring the supply of automotive-grade chips for Ford vehicles.

These two announcements mark a shift in the semiconductor supply chain where fabs are taking a more proactive role. Add to this General Motor’s vow to reduce the number of unique MCUs in its vehicles, and you can sense an ongoing semiconductor disruption in the automotive industry.

A lot has been written and said about the chip shortages and their impact on the automotive industry; now, this is how automakers are responding by getting closer to the semiconductor business. Beyond the IC shortage, what’s bothering carmakers is that in-vehicle use of semiconductors is growing to perform arithmetic and control tasks in computing, storing data, or even handling multiple tasks simultaneously.

At a recent tech conference, GM’s Mark Reuss said that the semiconductor requirements will more than double over the next several years. GM, on its part, is working closely with top fab TSMC and leading chip vendors like Infineon, NXP, onsemi, Qualcomm, Renesas, and STMicroelectronics.

Ultimately, the year 2022 will show how chipmakers’ relationship with carmakers evolves and how this impacts the semiconductor supply chain.

This article was originally published on EDN.

Majeed Ahmad, Editor-in-Chief of EDN, has covered the electronics design industry for more than two decades.


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