Everyone deemed it as official news: the shortage of semiconductors is triggering serious problems in the European and United States automotive sector, with consequent delays or even production stops in some factories, including the manufacturing lines of electric vehicles.
Moreover, it seems that in recent months costs have risen for the producers of smartphones and satisfying the demand for even common household appliances, such as refrigerators and microwave ovens, has become difficult.
Let us take a step backward: currently, microchips are fundamental components for manifold products, not only computers, smartphones and electronic devices in general, but also for automotive and the household appliance industry (which, through innovation, have added new sensors, internet connections and other “smart” functions).
The shortage started last December because, owing to the pandemic, a production slowdown and a tiring of global provisioning chains occurred, while simultaneously the demand for electronic appliances (then of microchips) increased, to overcome the forced lockdown at best.
First the automotive industry was struck and it is still the most damaged because necessary microchips are less sophisticated and expensive than those equipping appliances such as smartphones and computers, which benefit from higher margins, too.
In April, Ford shut down six factories in the United States for several weeks owing to the microchip shortage, and also General Motors, Nissan and Stellantis slowed down or interrupted the production. In the household appliance world, the President of Whirlpool in China revealed that in March the company could satisfy 90% of the demand and there is the great fear that the chip famine, with the strict gain margins, the long lifecycles of white goods and the stagnant estate market make the appliance prices soar. A great doubt shared by the automotive industry, too.