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Taiwan chipmakers see their role in global EV supply chain grow

The role of Taiwan's IC industry is growing amid the persistent shortage of automotive chips.

TSMC has in recent years expanded its automotive client portfolio, according to industry sources. Long-term order commitments from TSMC's customers engaged in the automotive industry supply chain are also encouraging the foundry to carry out new capacity expansions, the sources said.

TSMC's capacity expansion project at its 12-inch fab site in Nanjing, China and new fab project in Japan are both aimed to build additional fab capacity for automotive ICs, the sources indicated.

If TSMC decides to build a new fab in Germany, the fab will also serve the foundry's local automotive customers in Europe, the sources believe.

TSMC is expected to regain orders from Tesla thanks to its relatively stable sub-5nm manufacturing yield rates, the sources said. The foundry is also believed to have received chip orders for autonomous driving from Nvidia and Mobileye, the sources indicated.

Ethernet chip supplier Realtek Semiconductor has cut into the supply chains of Tesla and also China's tech giant Huawei, who reportedly will enter the EV market, with shipments kicking off this year and set to expand in 2023, the sources said. Realtek is now targeting the automotive market.

Display driver IC specialist Himax Technologies has grown its automotive DDI market presence and become a dominant player in the sector, the sources noted. Himax is shipping DDIs to Europe- and Japan-based car vendors, with automotive DDI shipments poised to drive its revenue growth this year, the sources said.

WinWay Technology, which provides high-end test socket services, has recently delivered test socket samples to Tesla and is expected to break into the EV vendor's supply chain this year, the sources indicated. Leadframe maker Shuen Der Industry (SDI) has already entered Tesla's supply chain after going through stringent validations, the sources said.

MCU makers Holtek Semiconductor and Nuvoton Technology continue to grow their businesses in the automotive field which is still dominated by international IDMs. Additionally, automotive PCB specialist Chin-Poon Industrial is engaged in the supply chain of US-based luxury battery EV maker Lucid Motors and electric pickup truck maker Rivian, and fellow PCB companies including Dynamic Electronics and Tripod Technology have tapped into Tesla's supply chain, the sources said.

TSMC has disclosed plans to build new 28nm process fabrication lines at its 12-inch fab in Nanjing, which makes mainly 16nm chips with production capacity reaching 25,000 wafers monthly. TSMC expects to start providing 28nm fabrication services at its Nanjing fab in the second half of 2022. An additional 40,000 wafers designed for 28nm processes will be installed at TSMC's Nanjing fab by mid-2023, mainly to satisfy its automotive customers, including some China-based customers.

In Japan, TSMC has reached a deal with Sony to set up a JV foundry in Kumamoto. The JV has attracted Denso's investment. Denso is an auto parts supplier in which Toyota Motor has a nearly 25% stake. Construction of the JV foundry is scheduled to begin in the 2022 calendar year with production targeted to begin by the end of 2024.

TSMC was in the early stages of discussions with clients over the feasibility of setting up a new fab in Germany, chairman Mark Liu told shareholders in mid-2021. The foundry has yet to provide more details about it.