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Renesas aims to resume fire-hit chip line within 1 month

  • March 21, 2021
  • , Jiji Press , 8:22 p.m.
  • English Press

Tokyo, March 21 (Jiji Press)–Renesas Technology Corp. <6723> is seeking to resume the operations of its fire-damaged cutting-edge semiconductor production line in eastern Japan within a month, its president, Hidetoshi Shibata, said Sunday.

“We aim to restart production at the line within a month,” he told an online press conference.

Two-thirds of the chip products manufactured at the line, part of the major Japanese semiconductor maker’s factory in the city of Hitachinaka, Ibaraki Prefecture, are for automobiles. The halt of the line looks certain to affect production at automakers at a time when shortages of chip supplies are becoming serious around the world.

Shibata admitted that the suspension will have “a very big impact” on the automobile industry. Renesas has the largest share in the domestic market for chip products for automobiles.

The president said that damaged chipmaking devices need to be replaced, adding that the restart of operations will be delayed if procurement of new devices and components takes time.

According to Renesas, the fire burned part of a clean room and 11 units of chipmaking equipment, or about 2 pct of all equipment at the building where the fire occurred, and the ceiling was blackened with soot. The firm plans to first spend about a week figuring out the full extent of damage.

Automakers and auto parts makers have offered to help Renesas restore the suspended operations.

The fire broke out around 2:47 a.m. Friday (5:47 p.m. Thursday GMT) and was extinguished shortly past 8 a.m. the same day.

Overcurrent at a manufacturing device has been blamed for the fire. The company will carry out a detailed investigation into the cause of the fire.

The trouble at Renesas is expected to further delay a full-fledged recovery in automobile production, which has slumped due to the fallout of the novel coronavirus pandemic.

Automakers started to adjust production in January in response to growing chip shortages reflecting progress in digitalization.

A strong earthquake that struck northeastern Japan in February damaged a major auto parts supplier, leading to a temporary halt of vehicle assembly plants of Toyota Motor Corp. <7203> and Nissan Motor Co. <7201>.

Earlier this month, North American plants of Japanese automakers were halted due to a chip shortage stemming from the cold wave in the United States.

As of early February, major Japanese automakers expected the impacts of the semiconductor shortages would subside between May and June.

An official of one of the makers said, however, that a full-fledged recovery in automobile production will likely be delayed substantially after a series of unexpected events, including the fire at the Renesas plant.

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