TOKYO -- Japan's killer 2011 earthquake was an unprecedented knockout to the country's auto industry. But for one U.S. company, it has been a business breakthrough.
Freescale Semiconductor Inc., which makes the tiny microcontrollers that run everything from automatic windows to fuel injectors, has become inundated with orders.
It's top rival, Japanese giant Renesas Electronics Corp., had its chip factory jolted offline during the disaster. And Freescale seized the moment to develop a stand-in for the missing chips. It raced to crunch a process that normally takes four years into just nine months.
In doing so, it scooped up its first-ever Japanese order for a powertrain product.
Now, Freescale has parlayed that pinch-hit victory into unexpected expansion.
Thanks largely to post-quake Japan's newfound obsession with dual sourcing components, Japan's auto market is Freescale's fastest growing revenue source for automotive chips.
"We've never had this quality of relationships in Japan," Freescale Japan President David Uze said in an interview last week. "We've never had this much automotive opportunity in Japan. We've never seen this much revenue in automotive in Japan.
"The Japanese market, automotive especially, is desperately trying to find a reliable non-Japanese source."