TOKYO -- Renesas Electronics Corp., the world's biggest maker of automotive microcontrollers and a key bottleneck in Japan's parts shortage, is trying to reopen its quake-damaged plant in Japan sooner than its earlier target date of July.
A revised schedule is expected to be announced as early as next week and comes amid plans to shift some of the plant's chip production to undamaged factories.
"It might open before July," spokeswoman Kyoko Okamoto said today. "We are working intensely to accelerate the schedule."
Recovery work comes as automakers worldwide brace for months of parts shortages because several plants making microcontroller computer chips were hit by the Japanese quake. A modern car can use more than 100 of the chips, which are essential to such things as parking brakes, engine control units, entertainment systems, stability control and power steering.
Renesas controls about 41 percent of the global market -- with 90 percent of its global capacity in Japan. Its Naka plant in northeastern Japan, which accounts for about 25 percent of Renesas' total output of automotive microcontrollers, has been offline since the March 11 quake.
Renesas had earlier said the Naka factory wouldn't resume operations until July.
But on April 10, workers began recreating the clean-room environment for the 200-millimeter wafer line that makes chips for automotive use, Okamoto said. Production can begin only after the air has been purified, she said without giving a timeline for completing the process.