Automakers Highlight Improvements in Semiconductor Availability, but Long-Term Constraints Persist

Although most electronic component categories emerged from the severe shortage of 2021-2022 months ago, many parts used by the automotive sector have remained scarce throughout this year. However, the latest earnings announcements from leading automakers revealed that the semiconductor supply situation has cleared up significantly.

Despite this, availability constraints are likely to persist for certain parts, including some automotive microcontrollers, according to Supplyframe Commodity IQ.

A Mixed Outlook

In their quarterly announcements, automakers, including Volkswagen, Hyundai, and Volvo, highlighted improvements in the supply situation for semiconductors. Mercedes also cited an amelioration in the overall supply-chain situation.

Volvo’s CEO attributed the semiconductor availability improvements to China’s lifting of its COVID-19 restrictions and described auto-related chips as “back in full supply—for at least Volvo Cars.” These developments are delivering tangible availability improvements for buyers of key products, including analog power ICs and microcontrollers (MCUs).

Automotive was the largest end market for analog and MCUs in 2021, according to data from the U.S. Semiconductor Industry Association (SIA). Analog power lead times are shortening, with the percentage of parts with at-volume lead times at 35 weeks and less rising to 76% in Q3, up from 60% in Q2.

Just 2% of analog power lead times totaled more than 52 weeks in Q3, down from 21% in Q2. Overall, MCU lead times are also declining, although delivery times are still extended for specific automotive-related parts.

For example, STMicroelectronics’ automotive MCUs are still supply-constrained, with the lead time for its SPC5 32-bit automotive devices now at 63 weeks.The car semiconductor shortage has been driven by a lack of suitable production capacity, along with booming demand for EVs.

Chips for cars are mainly built using 90nm or larger process technologies – nodes that have experienced little growth in capacity in recent years, despite exploding demand from automakers and other customers.

The EV Factor

Meanwhile, the demands of the EV market have stressed the capabilities of semiconductor suppliers. EV sales are booming, with global sales set to rise 35% this year, according to the IEA. By 2030, EVs are projected to account for 60% of global automotive sales.

At the same time, the semiconductor content in each EV is soaring as well, with the average value of chips in an EV rising to $1,500 in 2027, up from $1,000 in 2021, according to one market watcher. While buyers are experiencing some relief from automotive semiconductor shortages now, the long-term issues created by the rise in EV demand and lack of suitable new capacity could cause a return to a shortfall situation in the future.

Because of this, automakers are entering closer partnerships with semiconductor suppliers to ensure the long-term supply of key chips. For more insights like these, delivered to your inbox each week, subscribe to IQ Insider today!

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