"Core" pain is not as good as action

  The global auto industry is suffering from the pain of lack of "core", and the prospects for the recovery of the world economy are thus cast a shadow over it.

From the current measures taken by various countries and large manufacturers, the semiconductor industry chain is stepping up its restructuring.

In the short term, it will take time for major manufacturers to restore production capacity, and the dilemma of lack of "core" is difficult to solve.

In the long run, this predicament has caused major economies to worry about the chip supply chain, and the global game around the chip industry will further intensify.

Europe plans to build a strong "core"

  Our newspaper's Berlin correspondent Xie Fei

  When the proud automobile industry was threatened, Europeans began to seriously reflect on its position and role in the global semiconductor industry, planning how to build their own independent and powerful chip industry.

  As an important user of the semiconductor industry, the European automotive industry has deeply felt the pain of "core shortage".

According to estimates by market research organization IHS, the global auto industry will reduce production by as much as 1 million vehicles this year due to chip shortages.

Market analysis agencies and major car companies believe that the current tight supply of chips is almost impossible to ease in the first half of this year.

  The "core shortage" predicament not only has a profound impact on the global chip industry chain, but also exposed the weaknesses and deficiencies of Europe's semiconductor industry.

Especially when the automobile industry, the pillar industry that they are proud of, is threatened, Europeans begin to seriously reflect on their position and role in the global semiconductor industry, and plan to build their own independent and powerful chip industry.

  In order to realize Europe's "independence" in the semiconductor field and reduce its dependence on the US and Asian semiconductor giants, the 19 EU member states signed an agreement at the end of last year to implement the "European Electronic Chip and Semiconductor Industry Alliance Program", and the EU chip industry began to accelerate its layout.

The signatory member states generally believe that Europe should have the ability to design and manufacture the world’s top chip products, strengthen cooperation among EU member states in the field of chip and semiconductor industries, and increase cooperation in equipment, raw materials, design, advanced manufacturing, and packaging. Investment in the entire industry chain.

  Recently, German Minister of Economy Atmeier also called on German and EU companies to focus on the future and increase investment in the field of chip semiconductors.

To this end, the German government is ready to cooperate with other member states under the EU framework to provide enterprises with subsidies and subsidies of up to billions of euros.

  In order to achieve this goal, the European Union once again emphasized the need to strengthen Europe’s entire industrial chain from chip design, R&D to manufacturing in its “2030 Digital Vision” announced not long ago, so as to ensure that Europe will be able to compete in the global semiconductor industry in the future. The industry occupies a market share of about 20%.

  Facing the current chip supply cut-off crisis, major European suppliers have taken action to expand their production capacity.

German chip giant Infineon has invested 1.6 billion euros to build a new chip factory in Villach, Austria, and Germany’s largest auto parts supplier Bosch Group has also built a chip factory with a total investment of up to 1 billion euros in Dresden, Germany. 300mm wafers are produced with the latest technology to solve the problem of insufficient chip supply from local auto companies.

  The rapid expansion of semiconductor companies' production capacity has brought huge business opportunities and development prospects to related companies in the European semiconductor industry.

As the global semiconductor industry is showing a trend of accelerated expansion, ASML, as an important lithography machine manufacturer, has also become the focus of global attention.

Driven by the current tight global chip supply, Asim’s stock price has almost doubled within half a year, surpassing the German software giant SAP, and has become the European technology company with the highest market value, with a market value of more than $260 billion, nearly twice that of SAP.

  The analysis pointed out that if Europe wants to occupy a place in the global semiconductor industry and establish a more independent semiconductor production capacity, it should give full play to its strengths and take precautions.

On the one hand, European companies have a world-leading level in the fields of power semiconductors, sensors and security chips, and this advantage needs to be maintained and continued.

On the other hand, in frontier fields such as 6G communication networks and artificial intelligence, Europe must accelerate its pace and set out to seize the opportunities.

  European semiconductor companies currently do not have the possibility of competing in the same category with international giants such as TSMC, Samsung and Intel.

Therefore, what European companies have to do is to give full play to their own advantages, strengthen R&D in the fields of power semiconductors, sensors and security chips, enhance their competitiveness, and further seize the global market.

  While enhancing the independent production capacity of the semiconductor industry, Europe must continue to work on the stability of the semiconductor industry's supply chain.

The production of chips has to go through multiple processes in different factories around the world, which can take up to several months.

This global industrial chain is already very mature.

European companies cannot rely on their own efforts to develop all links of the industrial chain to the strongest.

Therefore, the global division of labor in the semiconductor industry is still important and is the most efficient and economical production model.

South Korean car companies seek to solve the "core" remedy

  Reporter Bai Yunfei in Seoul

  Automotive semiconductors have high technical requirements, and Korean semiconductor companies are relatively less enthusiastic about production. In the future, it will take a step by step to promote the increase in the localization rate of automotive semiconductors.

  At the beginning of this year, due to the shortage of automotive semiconductor supplies, many car companies around the world have been in a dilemma of reducing production.

In February, South Korea's General Motors Corporation was the first to bear the brunt, becoming the first South Korean car company to reduce production.

Recently, Hyundai Motor, Kia, Ssangyong Motor and other car companies have also faced factory shutdown problems.

  The automobile industry is one of the pillar industries in South Korea. Its output value accounts for 13.6% of the total output value of South Korea’s manufacturing industry. It also solves 11.4% of South Korea’s jobs.

The suspension of production by South Korean car companies will not only have a negative impact on South Korea’s employment rate and the income of a large number of employees, but may also have a certain impact on South Korea’s economic growth expectations.

  In February of this year, GM Korea announced that it would halve the output of its second plant in Bupyeong from February 8.

However, only two months later, news of more Korean automakers' suspension of production followed one after another.

Hyundai Motor’s Ulsan plant began to suspend production on April 14, Kia’s Gwangju Plant No. 1 ceased overtime work from April 10 to 17, and Hyundai’s Asan Plant, which is responsible for the production of Kia Ao sports cars, is also discussing the suspension.

  In the absence of global automotive semiconductor supply, production suspension or reduction has become a problem that Korean car companies have to face.

However, it is worth noting that in the case of insufficient supply of automotive semiconductors at the beginning of this year, Hyundai Motor and Kia dragged on until mid-April until they were truly "short of cores", and they cut production later than some well-known car companies in other countries.

The delayed arrival of the “lack of core” dilemma has not only spared Hyundai Motor and Kia from greater losses, and won more time for them to relieve inventory, but also has become part of the auto companies’ own measures to deal with the “lack of core”.

  Some Korean media reported that with their sensitive business sense, Hyundai Motor and Kia started to sort out and reserve automotive semiconductor inventories as early as October last year.

Because of this, Hyundai Motor and Kia were spared the brunt when the world’s first wave of impacted car companies announced production cuts at the beginning of this year.

Hyundai Motor Group has its own relatively mature parts management system.

The group has a number of subsidiaries, among which the subsidiary named Hyundai AUTRON has been responsible for the supply, research and development, quality management and other businesses of Hyundai Motor Group's automotive semiconductors for a long time.

In December last year, Hyundai Group again integrated the business of its subsidiaries. Another subsidiary, Hyundai MOBIS, acquired the semiconductor department of Hyundai AUTRON, and was responsible for the overall management of module production, system solutions, and some parts and components including automotive semiconductors. business.

While Hyundai MOBIS is supplying production modules for Hyundai Motor and Kia, it has also stockpiled semiconductor stocks for them.

  However, the “lack of core” problem has not been solved for a long time, and it has also risen to the level of the Korean government.

  Recently, the South Korean government, auto industry organizations, and related companies have continued to communicate, and they have been trying to solve the problem of “core shortage” of auto companies.

The South Korean government first took the lead in establishing an emergency response mechanism called the "Future Vehicle-Semiconductor Joint Cooperation Agreement" for continuous communication with the Ministry of Trade and Industry, related companies and research institutions to discuss existing problems and support measures.

Through several consultations and communications, South Korea has roughly determined a response plan to expand imports in the short-term and promote localization in the long-term at the national level.

  Since the suppliers of semiconductors to South Korean car companies are mainly overseas companies, South Korea has decided to strengthen negotiations with overseas suppliers to alleviate urgent needs.

At the same time, South Korean customs and epidemic prevention departments will try their best to provide convenient conditions.

The customs is responsible for the rapid customs clearance of automotive semiconductor imports, and the anti-epidemic department exempts entry quarantine measures for people going abroad due to the disposal of automotive semiconductors.

  Although South Korea is a powerhouse in semiconductors, this incident exposed the problem that South Korean car companies rely on semiconductor imports and that the output of South Korean semiconductor companies for automotive semiconductors is too small.

According to data released by the Korea Trade Association, among the global automotive semiconductor sales, US companies accounted for 31.4%, Japanese companies accounted for 22.4%, German companies accounted for 17.4%, and South Korea accounted for only 2.3%.

Increasing the domestic production rate of automotive semiconductors and reducing supply chain risks have become a major issue in the Korean automotive and semiconductor industries.

The South Korean government recently announced that it is currently formulating a "roadmap for the development of automotive semiconductor technology" and will vigorously increase the localization rate of automotive semiconductor components in the future.

  However, there is also an analysis in South Korea that even if South Korea expands its imports of automotive semiconductors, it will first alleviate the needs of component manufacturers. The effect is truly reflected in the vehicle manufacturers, and it will take more than two months.

In addition, the requirements for automotive semiconductor technology are relatively high, and South Korean semiconductor companies are relatively low in production enthusiasm. In the future, it will take a step by step to promote the increase in the localization rate of automotive semiconductors.

Japan's chip industry tries to renew its glory

  Tokyo correspondent Su Haihe

  In the face of the worldwide shortage of semiconductor chips, the Japanese government has formulated relevant policies and joined hands with the industry to try to rebirth and continue its former glory.

  Affected by the chip shortage that has swept the world, Japan's largest manufacturing automobile industry has recently experienced production cuts.

Some experts estimate that the global auto production in the second quarter of this year may decrease by 1.2 million vehicles.

Chip becomes an industry bottleneck

  There are many reasons for the tightness of semiconductors in the Japanese automobile industry.

First, due to the lack of global supply due to semiconductor upgrades, some companies and major countries have rushed to buy semiconductors, and even hoarding has occurred.

Second, the obstruction of domestic semiconductor production in Japan has exacerbated the market shortage.

Since the beginning of this year, severe earthquakes have continuously occurred in the Tohoku region of Japan centered on Fukushima, which has affected the production of Fujitsu, NEC, and Toyota's semiconductor plants.

Factories that manufacture stepper lithography machine parts for LCD and IC production, such as Tokyo Electronics and Miyagi Nikon Seiki, are also affected.

In addition, the leakage of the house happened to rain overnight. On March 19, a fire broke out in a major factory of Renesas Electronics, the largest chip manufacturer in Japan and third in the world, accounting for 20% of the world's automotive chip market, causing some production lines to stop.

Toyota, Honda and other car companies said that if the production of chips is suspended for a long time, it will affect the production capacity of the auto industry.

Nihon Keizai Shimbun and many other media said that it is predicted that Japan's semiconductor chip tension will continue for a long time, and the Japanese government and industry urgently need to increase their efforts to deal with it.

  Although the current semiconductor shortage is a short-term phenomenon, in the long run, Japan, a semiconductor power that once dominated the world, has lost its former glory. How to prevent sinking and promote the industry to set sail again is related to the long-term economic development of Japan.

The decline of the former electronic power

  Looking back at the development of the Japanese economy, electronic technology and manufacturing have been important pillars of the Japanese economy for nearly half a century.

After Japan's economic foundation improved in the 1970s and 1980s, Japan focused on the development of electronic technology and the electronics industry. In 1986, Japan's DRAM chip market share once reached 80%, surpassing its main competitor, the United States, to become a world semiconductor power.

  Since then, the United States has launched multiple rounds of economic structure negotiations, focusing on restricting the development of the Japanese electronics industry. The Japanese government was forced to promise to allow US semiconductor products to occupy more than 20% of the Japanese market, which caused severe damage to the Japanese semiconductor industry.

  The shortcomings of Japan's domestic industrial mechanism have become increasingly prominent.

During the period of large-scale production, the Japanese industry has formed a one-stop industrial chain of R&D, raw material processing, and finished product manufacturing. However, in recent years, as the pace of semiconductor chip upgrading has accelerated, a single enterprise group has been unable to withstand huge R&D investments and equipment upgrades. , Resulting in the aging of the business model and production model and unable to adapt to the requirements of the new era.

According to statistics from an integrated circuit research institution in the United States, the share of Japanese semiconductors in the global market fell from 49% in 1990 to 10% in 2019. From its heyday, Japan accounted for six of the world’s top ten semiconductor companies, and it fell to only one in the past two years. Toshiba Semiconductor is on the list.

In October last year, Toshiba Semiconductor was forced to sell to a holding company led by the Japanese government due to long-term mismanagement and changed its name to "Kioxia Electronics."

  In the global market, in addition to semiconductor products, Japan also provides chip manufacturing equipment and semi-finished raw materials.

In this area, Japan still accounts for 40% and 50% of the global market, respectively.

In 2018, a semiconductor industry research company in the United States reported that Japan alone accounted for 7 of the world's 15 semiconductor production equipment manufacturers.

In the field of production materials, Japan restricted the export of related materials to South Korea two years ago, which caused the South Korean semiconductor industry to be in trouble for a while. Later, with the funding of the South Korean government, South Korean Samsung and other related companies achieved rapid development.

Government and industry join forces

  Recently, in the face of the worldwide shortage of semiconductor chips, the Japanese government has formulated relevant policies and joined hands with the industry to try to rebirth and continue its former glory.

  At the end of 2020, the Japanese government issued a "green growth strategy", in which the semiconductor industry is one of the key development areas, for which it proposed to "support the development of a new generation of semiconductor technology."

The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry of Japan established a new industrial fund with a scale of 200 billion yen.

Recently, the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry of Japan convened experts from various parties and heads of major companies such as Renesas and NTT to hold a semiconductor strategy forum, focusing on strengthening the semiconductor supply chain and promoting the research and development of cutting-edge products.

This is also the first seminar held by the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry on the semiconductor industry strategy under development.

Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry Hiroshi Kajiyama emphasized at the meeting that "Having a highly competitive semiconductor and digital industry is related to the country's destiny. The government will use various means such as finance and taxation to promote the development and growth of cutting-edge technology research and development and related businesses."

  In March of this year, the Japan Institute of Industrial Technology and Canon, Tokyo Electronics Corporation, and SCREEN reached a joint development agreement. In order to meet the popularization of the new generation of high-speed communication technology, the foundation invested 42 billion yen to jointly develop 2 nanometer-level semiconductor chips and Its production technology.

  While supporting domestic companies to strengthen R&D, Japan has also vigorously introduced the world's top R&D and manufacturing companies.

In February this year, TSMC announced the establishment of a research and development base in Tsukuba Science and Technology City, Japan.

The Japanese government encourages semiconductor production equipment companies and material companies to cooperate with them.

  In order to make up for the shortage of semiconductors for electric vehicles, Japan’s Fuji Electric Corporation decided to accelerate the pace of investment, shortening the original five-year equipment investment plan to four years to complete, and invest 120 billion yen in Aomori Prefecture, Yamanashi Prefecture, and Yamanashi Prefecture before the end of next year. In terms of equipment investment in Nagano Prefecture, the focus is on the production of 8-inch high-performance semiconductor wafers and other early-stage processes.

At the same time, the company will also add a post-process assembly line at its Shenzhen factory in China.

  The Japanese media recently called on the Japanese government to further increase its support for the development of new technologies. The Japanese Keizai Shimbun pointed out that although the Japanese government has formulated policies and guidelines to support the development of high-tech, it has ties to the EU and the United States for trillions of days. Compared with the scale of yuan, the Japanese government's support is obviously insufficient.

Call on the government to increase investment to win opportunities for core technology development.