TOKYO -- Renesas Electronics Corp., the world's No. 1 maker of automotive microcontrollers and a key bottleneck in Japan's parts shortage, has sped up its recovery schedule by a month, saying it will achieve pre-earthquake output levels in September.
The company, which resumed mass production at its damaged Naka factory in northeastern Japan in June, had expected to return to a full shipment schedule in late October.
The move, announced Friday, June 10, marks another improvement in the recovery of Japan's auto industry, still struggling to fix a supply chain paralyzed by the March 11 earthquake.
The quake forced Renesas to shut down several plants, including its Naka facility, which is the last to be brought back online. To recoup lost volume, Renesas shifted some microcontroller production from Naka to its Tsugaru plant in northern Japan and to an affiliate chip maker in Singapore.
Naka production of 200-millimeter wafers, the chips most often used in auto applications, resumed on June 1. Production of 300-millimeter wafers returned at the plant on June 6.
Combined with production shifted to other plants, Renesas had predicted pre-earthquake production levels of wafers by the end of July.
The wafers then must be processed into microcontrollers, and that process is recovering faster than originally expected.
More than 100 microcontrollers, or MCUs, can go into a modern vehicle.
The tiny chips are essential to components such as electronic parking brakes, pre-crash seat belts and engine control units to onboard entertainment systems, stability control and power steering.
Renesas controls about 41 percent of the global market, and 90 percent of its capacity is in Japan. Before the quake, Renesas' Naka plant accounted for about 25 percent of the company's global automotive MCU capacity.
Naka has two wafer lines. One makes 200-millimeter wafers that are cut into individual microcontroller chips, some of which end up in cars. The other makes 300-millimeter wafers, divided into so-called system-on chips used mostly in digital cameras and mobile phones.