Renesas Fire Worse Than Anticipated, 3-Month Restart Prompts Production Cuts at Toyota, Nissan

By Tiera Oliver

Associate Editor

Embedded Computing Design

March 30, 2021


Renesas Fire Worse Than Anticipated, 3-Month Restart Prompts Production Cuts at Toyota, Nissan

A fire at the Renesas Electronics semiconductor fabrication plant in Hitachinaka, Japan, on Monday, March 19th burned approximately 600 meters, roughly 5 percent of the building’s clean room area.

It is believed that an overcurrent triggered an electrical fault in wafer plating equipment that had relatively low heat resistance, igniting the fire. No one was hurt, but at least 23 machines were damaged or destroyed and the entire building has been closed for repairs.

About two-thirds of the Renesas Naka fabrication plant is dedicated to production of 300 mm automotive chipsets, and the company expects it will take more than three months to restart operations at the facility. Renesas controls roughly 30 percent of the global market for automotive microcontrollers, and the Naka plant in particular provides solutions to carmakers such as Toyota, Honda, Nissan, and others.

The 23 damaged or destroyed machines represents more than 4 percent of Renesas’ manufacturing equipment.

The halt in production will contribute to an existing shortage of automotive semiconductor solutions, potentially on a global scale. Renesas is in the process of moving the lost production to its other fabrication facilities in an effort to make up for the lost supply, which will quickly exhaust the estimated one-month inventory held by distributors worldwide. There are also efforts to re-route semiconductor manufacturing to companies in Taiwan.

Akira Minamikawa, analyst at research firm Omdia, believes it could take between three and six months for chip stockpiles to recover. Automakers expect to feel the impact of the shortage in late April, and Toyota and Nissan are already planning production cuts.

The fire comes less than a decade after the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami of 2011 suspended operations at the Naka factory for three months.

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Tiera Oliver, Associate Editor for Embedded Computing Design, is responsible for web content edits, product news, and constructing stories. She also assists with newsletter updates as well as contributing and editing content for ECD podcasts and the ECD YouTube channel. Before working at ECD, Tiera graduated from Northern Arizona University where she received her B.S. in journalism and political science and worked as a news reporter for the university’s student led newspaper, The Lumberjack.

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