back to article Toyota needs more than its Cheer Squad to deal with chip shortages, as five more home factories forced into idleness

Toyota said it would cut car production by up to 150,000 vehicles due to ongoing semiconductor shortages and restrictions associated with the COVID-19 pandemic. The car maker is idling five factories in home country Japan on some days in November, which affects the production of popular models including Corolla and Camry. …

  1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    "Car makers are now designing their own chips to give them better control over the supply of parts."

    Unless they're also getting into manufacturing this doesn't seem like much of a gain. It just means they're waiting for a batch of their custom version rather than a batch of the generic one. It might be worse - if the plant has eight customers for the generic version and one for the custom product the custom one is going to have to be a lot more profitable to get produced ahead of the generic when capacity is limited.

    1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

      Not to mention the off-the-cuff question of exactly how experienced are the people designing these custom chips ?

      If I had a car company, I think I'd prefer asking Intel (AMD/TSMC/whatever) to a meeting where I would specify what I need from said chip, and let them propose a solution.

      I'm sure the tools to design a chip today are plentiful and good, but just like programming languages, that doesn't mean that the people using them are doing so at the top ability of the software.

    2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      On the other hand, if their one custom chip replaces 10+ off-the-shelf chips, there's only one product to wait for instead of 10 which may be from different fabs with different lead times. I can't see it being an immediate solution, but long term it's a cost cutting measure and possibly a supply chain security measure. If it's their own chip design, they can supply the design and/or masks to any fab capable of making it.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    So nothing to do with work from home?

    Definitely the "chip shortage" and not the "working from home/don't need a new car" drop in sales? SUrE iT iS.

    Also how does designing new chips yourself help if you cannot order *production* of existing designs? Can I suggest the big driver here is the US subsidy for chip makers (intended to undercut China's push to be a major chip manufacturer), everyone wants a piece of that pie but to get a piece you have to have a claim to be a chip maker.

    Here car makers making their pitch for a cut of that free money.

    Give us free money.... because erm "chip shortage", do it, or we ditch US chip makers.

    1. Anthony Shortland

      Re: So nothing to do with work from home?

      It’s definitely chip shortage. Hence why Ford and Volvo for example are offering customers vehicles missing functionality (chips related to driver aids seems a big issue for some reason) with quicker delivery windows or wait for full functionality.

      Likewise household appliance makers are making models that were supposed to have WiFi connectivity without that feature - again due to lack of chips.

      Anyway chip shortage is old news. Availability of Aluminium is the next crisis for many manufacturers apparently.

      1. The commentard formerly known as Mister_C

        Re: So nothing to do with work from home?

        "household appliance makers are making models that were supposed to have WiFi connectivity without that feature"

        I do hope that's true and that customers go out of their way to buy WiFiFree. That way the manufacturers might start to realise that there is still a market for non-internet enabled toasters.

      2. Cuddles Silver badge

        Re: So nothing to do with work from home?

        "chips related to driver aids seems a big issue for some reason"

        Presumably because they're not actually necessary. You can't sell a modern car without its engine control units, not without redesigning the entire engine, but taking out something that beeps when it sees a white line isn't much of a problem.

  3. Paul Crawford Silver badge

    Would these be the same car manufacturers who do just-in-time near-zero stocks, then cut orders at the start of the pandemic and are now surprised that there is a global shortage of all chips?

    As above, I fail to see how doing their own design would help unless they bulk-orders, in which case they could have kept stocks of COTS chips for less money.

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      For years car manufacturers have had dedicated suppliers who simply asked "How high?" when told to jump. They hadn't realised that in the semi-conductor world they're just another customer and cancelling orders has made them not particularly good customers. It's easy to see why they'd like a supplier who's as captive as he others.

      1. David Hicklin

        "cancelling orders has made them not particularly good customers"

        and what did you expect them to do when the factories and sales rooms were shutdown by the lockdowns and they could not make or sell any cars? Continue to have a flow of chips until the warehouses burst asunder ?

        in some ways it was bad luck/timing that the meantime WFH created an overwhelming demand for laptops etc that gobbled up all the fab capacity not helped one little bit by global logistics being totally screwed up by covid - its a right mess out there!

  4. GraXXoR

    Designing in-house chips...

    And of course, they've purchased a $5bn in-house fab and brought in all the expertise needed...

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Was sceptical until...

    I've seen the various stories about chip shortages and wondered was it really as bad (especially for "mainstream" chips) as the stories made out. Then I saw this yesterday: https://pcengines.ch/leadtime.htm

    One *year* lead time for Intel NIC chips! Wow!

    1. Kristian Walsh

      Re: Was sceptical until...

      It’s panic buying. Every purchasing manager has a boss who has just discovered “semiconductors” without knowing the difference between SoC parts and other ICs, so the orders come down from the fancy offices to increase holding of all “of those semiconductor chips we use”.

      As a result, you can’t even get analogue signal or power ICs now, and they come from a very different fabrication chain; one that was unaffected by the initial squeeze on system-on-chip devices.

      The result right now is shortages, and next year, there’ll be an enormous collapse in sales and a glut.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    As far as I can tell, the only problem for me is that planned obsolescence isn't slowing down.

    I've got a car, I plan to keep it at least 3 more years. I've got perfectly good computers, the one I'm typing on right now is only 9 years old, and it's a 2.3 GHz quad-core i7, easily fast enough to keep up with what I do with it for the next decade.

    But... the car's modem will be obsolete in a few months when AT&T turns off 3G. The computer already won't run the latest macOS without a bit of hacking. Perfectly good hardware, and things don't work properly because support gets dropped, and no extensions because of the chip shortage, because profits.

  7. Chronos

    Interesting

    They could always make the vehicles less complicated. Most of the need for custom chippery is locking the end user into dealership services. If we had a standardised ECU architecture, none of this would be an issue for base models. That does presuppose manufacturers are willing to drop the cash-cow of aftersales, though.

  8. DanceMan

    TSMC building fab in Japan

    Announced on NHK World today.

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