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Plant blast adds to microchip supply emergency

One of the car industry’s biggest computer chip suppliers has warned that a major fire at one of its factories in Japan could have a “massive impact” on its ability to fulfil orders.

The incident comes at a time when supplies of chips to the auto industry were already running short.

Shares in the semiconductors firm Renesas fell, along with its clients including Toyota, Nissan and Honda.

Elsewhere, Volkswagen has said chip scarcity might last until the autumn.

“I think things will get stable by the fall but certainly its going to be complicated, and its going to be challenging but I think we’ll navigate it.

He added that some of the company’s plants were likely to run fewer shifts a day, but added that he hoped factory shutdowns could be averted.

The fabrication plant involved is based in the city of Naka, in the eastern province of Ibaraki. It specialises in 300mm wafers, making it one of the company’s most advanced facilities.

The firm has said there were no human casualties, but 11 of its manufacturing equipment units were damaged.

And because this occurred in one of its environmentally-controlled “clean rooms” – which are designed to avoid any dust or other particles from ruining the tiny transistors and circuits involved in a chip – efforts to restart production will involve more than just swapping out the ruined kit.

While Renesas said the majority of the products manufactured using the affected machines could in theory be manufactured elsewhere, the wider supply shortfall will make that difficult to achieve in practice.

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