TAIPEI: Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co Ltd (TSMC) is "expediting" auto-related products through its wafer fabs and reallocating wafer capacity, the company said on Thursday, amid a global shortage of auto chips.
Automakers around the world are shutting assembly lines due to the shortages, which in some cases have been exacerbated by the former U.S. administration's actions against Chinese chip factories.
On Wednesday, Taiwan's economy minister said major Taiwanese chipmakers were willing to prioritise supplies for auto makers, after she met senior company executives including from TSMC.
In a statement, TSMC said it was addressing the chip supply "challenges" as their top priority.
"The automotive supply chain is long and complex and we have worked with our automotive customers and identified their critical needs," the world's largest contract chipmaker said.
"TSMC is currently expediting these critical automotive products through our wafer fabs. While our capacity is fully utilised with demand from every sector, TSMC is reallocating our wafer capacity to support the worldwide automotive industry."
In 2020, auto chips accounted only for 3per cent of TSMC's sales, lagging smartphones' 48per cent and 33per cent for high-performance chips.
In the fourth quarter, sales for TSMC's auto chips jumped 27per cent from the previous quarter, but still only accounted for 3per cent of overall sales.
The issue has become a diplomatic one, with German Economy Minister Peter Altmaier writing to his Taiwanese counterpart Wang Mei-hua to ask her for help in addressing it.
Wang said the other companies whose executives she met were from United Microelectronics Corp (UMC), Powerchip Semiconductor Manufacturing Corp and Vanguard International Semiconductor Corp.
UMC Co-President Jason Wang, speaking on an investor call late Wednesday, said their fabs were also operating at a 100per cent utilisation rate and that they were trying to address the auto chip shortage.
"It's hard to increase the capacity. It's more about re-prioritising. Prioritising the automotive market, so hopefully we can relieve some of the pressure," he said.
"Some of the capacity increase will come from productivity improvement and for those the priority will probably be allocated to automotive at the current time."
UMC does not break down details for auto chips in terms of how much it makes up for in production or revenue exposure.
The shortage has affected Volkswagen, Ford Motor Co, Subaru Corp, Toyota Motor Corp, Nissan Motor Co Ltd, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles and other car makers.
(Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Stephen Coates)