Taiwan already has a sizable business in automotive parts and components. But Taiwan has only one carmaker developing, designing and building a complete car. That car OEM is Hua-chuang Automobile Information Technical Center Co., known as Haitec. Taiwan makes only 440,000 cars a year, all consumed in Taiwan.
As the global automotive industry anticipates a sharp rise in the electronic content in vehicles, Chou foresees Taiwan boosting its share of this business. Besides the electrification of vehicles, everything from in-vehicle infotainment systems to vehicle intelligence (ADAS) and connectivity are contributing to this trend. Chou estimates the proportion of electronics output could easily reach 40 to 50 percent per vehicle.
The groundswell of interest in the vehicle electronics market was palpable at Synopsys’ first “Automotive Day” held Thursday (April 20) in Hsinchu. Synopsys brought a large team of automotive experts to Taiwan for the event, illustrating its interest in this growing opportunity here. Some 350 chip designers -- eager to design automotive SoCs -- packed the conference room.
Aart de Geus, Synopsys chairman and co-CEO, pointed to a few notable advantages that Taiwan can exploit to ease its entry into automotive electronics. First, “Taiwan is sitting right next to China, where a growing number of EV companies are starting up from scratch -- with no prior automotive experience or expertise,” he said.
Second, Taiwan is known for “its entrepreneurial spirit” and a strong government commitment to “setting up national goals.” That’s how Taiwan succeeded in creating from scratch its now booming semiconductor foundry business.
Pointing out that a car is increasingly becoming “a collection of subsystems,” De Geus said he believes there’s an historic opportunity for Taiwanese startups to flex their entrepreneurial muscle.
Synopsys Automotive Day in Hsinchu, Taiwan (Photo: Synopsys)
But De Geus cautioned against drawing a direct line from Taiwan’s previous success in the ICT sector to Taiwan’s automotive aspirations.
Taiwan won the PC market battle primarily through cost and efficiency, he observed. In the automotive industry -- especially with highly automated vehicles, “We are at a very different stage where technology development is still needed.” Taiwan must show it can contribute to technology innovation by moving up to embedded software, de Geus said. Apple-Foxconn model to emerge in automotive?
But what if a new generation of cars — like smartphones — is dominated by platforms from a few goliaths like Google, Apple, and Uber? Doesn’t that mean all bets are off? More to the point, wouldn’t such tech companies’ entering the auto market favor the Taiwanese, who already know their way around the smartphone market and EMS (electronics manufacturing services) business?
Magney acknowledged, “Some have speculated that this is how the big tech companies may pursue automotive -- like Apple does smartphones.”
It’s tantalizing to imagine that an OEM/EMS relationship like Apple/Foxconn could eventually emerge in automotive. “But I do not see any evidence of this yet,” he said. Next page: Serving Tier Ones