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Is Foxconn Ready for Cars?

Never underestimate the power of an industrializing nation with the will to succeed. We’ve seen it happen in Japan, followed by Korea, and we’ve also observed Taiwan as it pioneered the semiconductor foundry business and mastered PC and mobile ecosystems.

It’s still an open question, though, whether Taiwan can replicate in the auto market the feats it performed with its own Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co., HTC or Asus.

Asked about Taiwan’s foray into cars, Robert Hollingsworth, a veteran chip company executive formerly with SMSC, told me, “It depends. If industry standards prevail, I think they will do well. If everything divides into brand implementations, the growth will be very slow and without volume, will become less interesting for Taiwan's developers and manufacturers.”

He, however, added: “Foxconn's involvement makes this very interesting.”

Hon Hai Precision Industry Co. Ltd., trading as Foxconn Technology Group, is a Taiwanese multinational electronics contract manufacturing company headquartered in New Taipei City, Taiwan. The company is best known as the builder of Apple's iPhones and iPads.  

(Source: EMS-CHEMIE AG)

(Source: EMS-CHEMIE AG)

Last week at AutoTronics Taipei, Taiwan sought to showcase some of the R&D achievements of local vendors and Taiwan Automotive Research Consortium (TARC). Demonstrations ranged from heads-up display and vision-based object detection systems to driver simulators and light-weight modular vehicle frames.

To be clear, though, Taiwan has only one car OEM – Haitec – and few globally recognized tier ones. Local industry needs to pull together to make Taiwan succeed in automotive.

Setting a target and making strategic investments to help an industry grow is “something the U.S. government hardly does,” said Aart de Geus, founder, chairman and CEO of Synopsys Inc., in an interview in Taipei. “But they should.”

Top-down government policy isn’t an approach that sits well with most Americans. But when the market is already well-seed by R&D, it doesn’t hurt to water the new shoots.

Nicky Lu, Etron CEO

Nicky Lu, Etron CEO

Nicky Lu, chairman, CEO and founder of Etron Technology Inc., told me last week in Taipei that just two months ago, Taiwan Semiconductor Industry Association (TSIA) teamed with the Taiwan External Trade Development Council (TAITRA) to establish a consortium of companies called “V-Team.”

Lu, who served as chairman of TSIA until earlier this year, is currently executive board director of the organization.

So, what does V stand for? Lu said, “V as in vehicle, V as in victory.”

Connect with EMS
Citing a total of 25 V-Team companies, Lu said, “The goal is to link software and hardware, connect manufacturers and EMS,” by fostering the development of tier ones who serve the global automotive industry. Lu added, automotive electronics is “one of the four key pillars” of TSMC’s business identified by Morris Chang. The other three are mobility, high-performance computing (i.e. AI), and IoT, he explained.

Taiwan’s automotive ambition precedes the formation of V-Team, however.

To promote Taiwan’s auto industry development, the Department of Industrial Technology (DoIT) of the Ministry of Economic Affairs in Taiwan urged four research institutes to establish the Taiwan Automotive Research Consortium (TARC) in mid-2005.

Currently, six members of the consortium are the Automotive Research and Testing Center (ARTC), the Mechanical and System Research Laboratories (MSL) of the Industrial Technology Research Institute (ITRI), the Material and Chemical Research Laboratories (MCL) of ITRI, the Metal Industries Research & Development Centre (MIRDC), the National Chung-Shan Institute of Science and Technology (NCSIST), and Hua-chuang Automobile Information Technical Center Co. Ltd. (HAITEC).

In addition to a host of automotive parts and components, this year’s AutoTronics Taipei also highlighted R&D advancements made by local vendors and local research institutes, making Taiwan ready for the coming era of highly automated vehicles.

Foxconn wasn’t present at AutoTronics. But Taiwan is getting ready to design and manufacture key subsystems for highly automated vehicles if Foxconn wants to pick up and run.

In following pages are examples we spotted on the show floor.

To read the rest of this article, visit EBN sister site EE Times

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