Honda to idle three Japanese plants in May due to chip shortage

TOKYO — Honda Motor Co. will suspend three plants in Japan as many as six days in May due to a chip shortage, a spokesman said on Wednesday.

Honda will suspend two plants in Saitama Prefecture for six days and its Suzuka plant in Mie Prefecture for five days, he said.

The suspension is due to a chip shortage caused by various factors, he added. He declined to outline the volume or models of vehicles affected but said that the company will carefully examine the situation for production following June.

Automakers worldwide are struggling due to a shortage of chips, exacerbated by a fire at Renesas Electronic Corp.’s chip plant in Japan and a storm in Texas.

Renasas struggling

Meanwhile, Renesas said Wednesday it now expects its fire-hit chip production capacity to recover about 40 percent of pre-fire level by end-April.

“We are recovering slightly behind what we had previously aimed for,” chief executive Hidetoshi Shibata said in an online earnings call. Renesas said last week it aims to recover the capacity to 50% in April.

“But we know very clearly what the bottleneck is, and have figured out how to handle it. We hope to catch up with our plans as soon as we enter May,” he added.

The Japanese firm restarted the 300mm wafer chip production line this month at its Naka plant northeast of Tokyo, four weeks after a fire burned an area of 600 square meters (2,000 square feet), destroyed machines and contaminated the sensitive clean room.

It disrupted about two-thirds of production on the line, in a blow to automakers worldwide who are already struggling due to a shortage of chips. Renesas plans to restore output at the plant by end-May.

Renesas commands nearly a third of the global market share for microcontroller chips used in cars.

The Japanese government has called on chip equipment makers to help Renesas restore production, with industry ministry officials asking companies at home and abroad to provide parts and machinery to the company.

When asked how Renesas will stabilize its supply amid a tight supply and demand of semiconductors, Shibata said the firm is strengthening disaster countermeasures and leveling up its multi-line production by creating a product with a similar function at multiple sites.

Renesas reported an operating profit of 30.19 billion yen ($277.30 million) for the first quarter on Wednesday, led by strong demand amid a global chip shortage.

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