LAS VEGAS – Name the top five semiconductor companies in the automotive electronics market today.
If you answered NXP Semiconductors, Infineon, Renesas, ST Microelectronics and Texas Instruments, you know too much about semiconductors.
However, ironically, most of the attendees at a chip-dependent trade show like the Consumer Electronics Show likely have little clue. When talk about the future of automobiles tends to revolve around artificial intelligence and autonomous cars, the companies stealing the show at CES are chip vendors armed with massive processing power – namely, Nvidia, Mobileye and Intel.
But honestly, you can’t blame the masses for getting excited about the idea of a car that has a built-in supercomputer with trillions of floating point per second (TFLOPS).
Infineon Technologies, however, is not in that TFLOPS race. “We don’t intend to get into that business,” Reinhard Ploss, Infineon CEO, told us last week.
In a one-on-one interview with EE Times, Ploss discussed why autonomous cars are “much more than high-performance computing platform.” He talked about how to achieve “100 percent reliability – aircraft-level – at the price of a car” and how “sensor fusion can’t afford to have confusion.”
Infineon CEO Reinhard Ploss, in front of 3D image sensor REAL 3D designed for driver monitoring, at the company's booth at CES
No more immediate M&A plan
Meanwhile, despite the seemingly never-ending M&A activities among global chip vendors, the Infineon CEO said he’s not looking for another big target any time soon.
Having completed acquisitions of International Rectifier (IR) and Wolfspeed in recent years, Ploss believes Infineon today is big enough, and well-positioned for organic growth.
Infineon last summer picked up the Power and RF division (“Wolfspeed”) of Cree in all-cash transaction of $850 million. The deal included a related SiC wafer substrate business for power and RF power. The deal gave Infineon “an in-market technology,” as Ploss described it.
Infineon also closed the acquisition of IR two years ago in a $3 billion cash deal. Ploss called the move an important step for Infineon to establish its position as a global leader in power semiconductors. “That was a play for scale,” he said.
Finally, Infineon acquired Innoluce, a fabless chip vendor based in Nijmegen, last October. Based on the know-how of Innoluce, Infineon plans to develop chip components for high-performance lidar systems. Ploss termed the move “a basic pre-market technology” acquisition.
Infineon projects to grow about 6 percent this year – a rate well above the industry average. The company has targeted its operational profit at 15-17 percent.
Infineon foresees two big changes in today’s automotive market: electrification of vehicles, and assisted, automated driving.
When it comes to electric drive trains, “Infineon offers the most complete solutions,” Ploss boasted. The Wolfspeed acquisition enables the broadest offering in compound semiconductors, and positions Infineon as a leading power and RF power supplier in such markets as electric vehicles and renewables, he explained.
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