Market trends

How bad is the global chip shortage problem for the semiconductor and automotive industries?

AlphaSense Staff

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May 12, 2021


There’s a massive chip shortage, in yet another market impacting event this year. To summarize — semiconductor chips, used in everything from cars, smart fridges, smartphones, and computers, are extremely difficult to make and there’s a shortage of materials that allow the few companies responsible for chip-making to create them. Manufacturing these chips takes a long process and, thanks to COVID-19, supply-chain issues have caused delays and problems for manufacturers. Coupled with an increase in demand, this has created a shortage that is impacting many industries.

For a more comprehensive understanding of how these chips are created, check out this fascinating primer by Bloomberg.

The chip shortage is an urgent crisis across multiple industries

The chip shortage was hardly discussed until near the end of the year, where mentions of the chip shortage spiked and continued to increase through 2021. On AlphaSense, we found over 32,600 documents containing the phrase (and associated terms) “chip shortage”, with the bulk of mentions occurring within the last three months, evidenced by the 185% 90-day increase.

Chart showing the sharp increase in number of documents discussing the chip shortage on AlphaSense

Across Company Docs, the mentions have risen even more dramatically. We found 2,258 company docs referencing the chip shortage within the last twelve months. But the number of documents published has risen 250% in the last 90 days.

Chart showing the sharp increase in company documents within AlphaSense discussing the "chip shortage"

Among these documents, the following were the top ten industries that were most discussed.

Pie chart showing which industries are mentioned most often in documents containing "chip shortage"

To get a better sense of how these industries are reacting to this chip shortage, we found some key insights across multiple documents from some of the largest companies most affected by this crisis.

Semiconductor & Semiconductor Equipment

MaxLinear Inc | 10Q Quarterly Report Q1 2021 

Although the Company has benefited from increased demand for certain of our products from the work-from-home environment in the second half of 2020 and the first quarter of 2021, a sudden increase in demand for electronics containing semiconductor chips and stockpiling of chips by certain firms in China blacklisted by the U.S. has exacerbated bottlenecks in the supply chain, resulting in a global semiconductor chip shortage impacting the Company’s industry. Some chip manufacturers are estimating this supply shortage may continue into 2022. While these chip manufacturers are working to increase capacity in the future, and the Company is continuing to work closely with our suppliers and customers to minimize the potential adverse impacts of the supply shortage, such shortage may have a near-term impact on the Company’s ability to meet increased demand on certain products and have a negative impact on its operating results beginning in the second quarter of 2021 which may continue into 2022. 

MKS Instruments | Q1 2021 Earnings Call 

John T. C. Lee
President, CEO & Director

“…I would say, in general, Scott, if there are chip shortages, or any kind of commodity shortage, prices tend to move up just because of supply and demand. And I would say broadly, we see areas where that’s happening with respect to electronic components. But really, it’s really about trying to get the electronic components because, as a percentage of our bomb, our capacitor or resistor is really not that large. It’s really all the other stuff that goes around it, that’s a bigger part of the bomb. So I think in general, there are going to be these pressures to increase prices while we have these shortages.”

Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co LTD | Q1 2021 Earnings Call

C.C. Wei
Vice Chairman & CEO

“Our customers are currently facing challenges from the industry-wide semiconductor capacity shortage, which is driven by both structural increase in long-term demand as well as short-term imbalance in the supply chain. We are witnessing a structural increase in underlying semiconductor demand as multi-year megatrend of 5G and HPC-related applications are expected to fuel strong demand for our advanced technologies in the next several years. COVID-19 has also fundamentally accelerated the digital transformation, making semiconductors more pervasive and essential in people’s life.

“In addition, the need to ensure supply security is creating [a] short-term imbalance in the supply chain, driven by supply chain disruption due to COVID-19 and uncertainties brought about by geopolitical tensions.

“…To address the structural increase in the long-term demand profile, we are working closely with our customers and investing to support their demand. We have acquired land and equipment and started the construction of new facilities. We are hiring thousand[s] of employees and expanding our capacity at multiple sites.TSMC expect[s] to invest about USD 100 billion through the next 3 years to increase capacity, to support the manufacturing and R&D of leading-edge and specialty technologies. Increased capacity is expected to improve supply certainty for our customers and help strengthen confidence in global supply chains that rely on semiconductors.

“…The automotive market has been soft since 2018. Entering 2020, COVID-19 further impacted the automotive market….and our customers continued to reduce their demand throughout the third quarter of 2020. We only began to see [a] sudden recovery in the fourth quarter of 2020.

“However, the automotive supply chain is long and complex with its own inventory management practices. From chip production to car production, it takes at least 6 months with several tiers of suppliers in between. TSMC is doing its part to address the chip supply challenges for our customers.

“In January of this year, TSMC announced that capacity support for automotive customers is our top priority. Since then, we have worked dynamically with our other customer[s] to reallocate our wafer capacity to support worldwide automotive industry. However, the shortage further deteriorated due to the unexpected snowstorm in Texas and the fab manufacturing disruption in Japan. Together with our productivity improvement, we expect the automotive component shortage from semiconductor to be greatly reduced for TSMC’s customer by the next quarter..”

Auto-Components & Automobiles

ABC Technologies Holdings Inc. | Q3 Fiscal 2021 Results Press Release

The Company’s financial results were negatively impacted by disruptions and shortages in the supply of critical components and materials globally, primarily semiconductors impacting its OEM customer’s production, which was an indirect outcome of the COVID-19 pandemic and to a lesser extent, certain weather-related shutdowns in the southern United States resulting in production interruptions in the resin supply base. Management estimates these issues, combined, reduced revenue by approximately $40 million and Adjusted EBITDA1,2 by approximately $13 million for the Q3 Fiscal period and as a result, revenue would have been about $258 million and Adjusted EBITDA would have been about $38 million for the quarter.

Magna International Inc | Q1 2021 Earnings Call

Seetarama Swamy Kotagiri

CEO, President & Director

“In terms of headwinds, the entire industry is experiencing supply constraints, in particular, a global semiconductor chip shortage. We expect the chip shortage to continue to have an impact throughout the year. Supply issues, particularly in chemicals and resins are driving higher commodity costs for us in the remainder of the year.”

Vincent Joseph Galifi

Executive VP & CFO

“Our assumptions for light vehicle production have been lowered for North America, reflecting the ongoing impacts of the semiconductor shortage and increase in China as a result of continued strong production.” 

Volkswagen AG | Q1 2021 Earnings Call

Arno Antlitz
Group CFO

“…COVID continues to have an impact on our society, on ourselves and on our business. At the same time, the shortage of semiconductors had put added pressure on the whole industry….We have managed COVID and the semiconductor restrictions well so far. However, we still have limited overall visibility on the financial impact of the semiconductor shortages. While we expect a more difficult Q2, we still see a good chance to recover a significant amount of the vehicles lost in the second half of the year.”

Herbert Diess

Chairman of Management Board & Group CEO

“SAIC was our probably most hit by the shortage of semiconductors in the group. So that is why we see — and there were some also write-downs, which we had to make for some of the assets from former projects. So I think we should see a recovery for SAIC within the next quarters.

“...semiconductors are becoming more relevant for our industry year-by-year basically as the car really becomes an Internet device, you can imagine and the amount of semiconductors we have in the car is growing every year, and it’s also to differentiate the cars to have the right  semiconductors. The right semiconductor design is really critical for the performance, connectivity of the car and mostly for autonomous driving. So we get into a more direct contact with semiconductor manufacturers on the design side. That’s a continuous process. And we are, for sure, in the crisis mode, talking directly to the — I would say, the first tiers than the second tiers of the semiconductors, let’s say, the NXPs, Infineons and even to the foundries, which at the end where the bottleneck happens at TSMC and the other foundries Stuttgart.

“So this dialogue is established. We are directing — contacting and it will increase over the years. The current crisis, I would differentiate 2 aspects. Now what we see in next quarter is basically our 2 incidents, which is [the] failure of 2 or 3 semiconductor plants in the U.S. because of winter storms and one fire which broke out in the Renesas plant. Two of those plants — of those 4 plants were dedicated basically 100% to automotive, which is what we currently are seeing on the horizon, and that’s going to hurt, because as the pipeline runs empty, now that’s going to hurt the industry and you hear the figures from all over the world.

“The rest is basically a general shortage of semiconductors because of the fast growth of the Internet of Things, IoT, which is mostly using the same technology, 54-nanometer technology as the automotive industry. And there, we have a constraint. We are working on that with the big suppliers with Infineon, Intel, all around the world to make sure that we get more capacity for the next years to come, but there is investment required. Investment in those kind of technology is not the general investment, which is currently executed. Most of the investment in semiconductors goes into 9-nanometer, 5-nanometer processes.

“So we have to make sure that we switch faster from, let’s say, the old technologies into new technologies. A comprehensive plan, which we are working out now with all the semiconductor manufacturers to make sure that we get our future growth expectations, let’s say, guaranteed with the semiconductor supply. But it’s hard work, and it will take time.”

Ford Motor Company | Q1 2021 Earnings Call

James D. Farley

President, CEO & Director

“The semiconductor shortage and the impact to production will get worse before it gets better. In fact, we believe our second quarter will be the trough for this year.

“…As you would expect, we’re committed to learn from this crisis to be a much stronger company. We’re taking this opportunity to revamp our supply chain to eliminate vulnerabilities down the road. This is especially relevant as we consider not only semiconductors but also battery cells and other commodities critical to our modernization and transformation. 

John T. Lawler

VP & CFO

“The vehicle incentive portion is based on the number of vehicles awaiting sale and dealer inventory and the expected incentive per unit, and both of those fell in the quarter due to the supply disruption.

“Now we do expect the working capital and the timing differences to normalize as the semiconductor supply is restored, as dealer stocks rebound and incentives return to more normal levels. And we believe this process will take several quarters and will most likely extend into 2022.

“…So we’ve updated our outlook to include the expanded impact of the global chip shortage, and that’s largely driven by the Renesas fire. While the situation is a significant headwind, we have definitive actions to address a full range of potential outcomes. So we now expect to lose about 50% of our planned Q2 production, an increase from the 17% loss in Q1, making Q2 the trough for our performance this year.”

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