October 16th, 2012 ~ by admin

Renesas: The Auto Bailout of the Semiconductor Industry

In 2003 Renesas Technology was formed as a joint company between Hitachi and Mitsubishi, combining their semiconductor operations.  In 2010 Renesas Electronics was created by the merger of NEC Electronics, and Renesas Technology.  This created the largest supplier of microcontrollers in the world, combining the product portfolios of NEC, Mitsubishi and Hitachi.  This allowed them to stop competing amongst themselves, and compete with Samsung, Infineon and other suppliers.

Renesas ended up with the following microcontroller families:

  • Hitachi: H8, H8S, H8SX, SuperH
  • Mitsubishi: M16, M32, R32, 720, 740
  • NEC: V850, 78K

In addition Renesas has developed it’s own designs including:

  • RX Series – a replacement for the Hitachi H8SX and Mitsubishi R32C designs.
  • RL78 Series – a replacement that combines the NEC 78k and Mitsubishi R8C devices
  • RH850 Series – successor to the NEC V850 for automotive use
  • R8C Series – Value derivative of the Mitsubishi M16C

Hitachi SH-3

One of the largest markets for these microcontrollers (and associated other parts) is the automotive industry, with today’s vehicles containing, on average, $350 in just IC’s per car.  $350 may not sound like much when a car costs $20,000, but the Average Sale Price (ASP) per component, is 33 cents, meaning there are, on average, over 1000 IC’s in a modern car, of which 50-100 are microcontrollers.  They do everything from run the stereo, to monitor and adjust engine parameters.  As more features (entertainment, navigation, stability control, etc) are added, the count goes up.

The market downturn in 2008-2009 hit the automotive industry, and is suppliers very hard.  With very small profit margins this hit Renesas very hard as well.  Combined with increasing competition from Samsung  Renesas has been driven into high levels of debt, and a distinct lack of profitability.

The Bailout:

Renesas H8S-2134B

Unlike the bailouts of the American automotive giants GM and Chrysler, it is the car manufacturers who are rescuing Renesas.  Toyota, Honda and Nissan (along with Canon, Denso and Panasonic) are all contributing $637.9 million to give Renesas the capital it needs to restructure.  The Japanese government is also kicking in $1.9 billion.  The end result will be a more stable and financially viable Renesas.  As part of the restructuring there is a strong possibility that the Systems LSI (microcontrollers) division will be sold off and joined with similar divisions from Panasonic and Fujitsu.  This should help Renesas (and whatever becomes of the Systems LSI division) be able to better compete with Samsung n Korea, and Siemens/Infineon in Europe.

Perhaps the new Renesas will see fit to put their name and logo on their rather generic looking chips.


EE Times: Japan set to rescue Renesas
Autoblog: Toyota et al to assist in bailout
EE Times: Automotive IC Sales roll 

Leave a Reply