“This downturn is hitting industrial and communications while most downturns hit computer and consumer,” says Dave Bell, CEO of Intersil.
“The transformation at Intersil is to diversify into more product areas and make high performance products with high levels of integration and high levels of intelligence,” says Bell, “one of the things I like about the automotive market is that it’s very performance-centric and very quality-centric – a lot of companies don’t have the quality and the high voltage processes.”
“Our strategy is different to LTC in that we are producing parts with higher levels of integration and embedded intelligence,” says Bell, “we still develop single function parts but we also develop higher integration parts.”
Intersil has been establishing proprietary mixed signal processes in foundries which are available only to Intersil.
“The demands of analogue are extreme,” says Bell, “we’re migrating parts to a 0.25 micron BCD process and most of the new automotive parts are on that process.”
The trick for Bell is to be a good picker of target markets. “We look for market areas which are big enough for us but not big enough to interest TI or Broadcom,” says Bell.
That’s partly why Bell has picked automotive.
“The key message is that the automotive market is rapidly growing, but rapidly changing,” says Bell, “the many new requirements mean that the automotive manufacturers are facing big challenges and, because of large investments made by Intersil, we have solutions to those challenges.”
Bell sees four automotive Megatrends: Safety – forward-looking radar, lane departure protection, back-up cameras, high-performance braking and stability control systems; Connectivity – audio, video, LCD heads-up displays, navigation, displays acting as a rear view mirror and in-car cameras; Efficiency -reduced CO2, fuel-saving, electrification of drive train, weight-saving; Affordability – to keep the cars in the right price range.
The beauty of the automotive market is that it’s a 70 million unit a year market rising to 100 million in 2016; and the semiconductor content in a car is rising from $310 per car in 2010 to $400 in 2016.
That delivers an automotive analogue IC CAGR of 9% between 2011 and 2016, meaning that the 2010 market of $25 billion will translate into a 2016 market of $40 billion.
Hybrid and electric vehicles will drive the chip market much faster, says Bell, the 3m electric and hybrid cars sold in 2011 will be transformed into a 14m electric and hybrid car market in 2016 with a 2008-2016 CAGR of 28%.
Intersil will address this market with LCD processors where it’s is providing a sub-system for automotive displays; ambient light sensors for automotive displays to keep them readable in high or low brightness and darkness; D2 audio where it intends to be bringing out a range of “significant” developments over the next six months to deliver high-end audio; and automotive power products – for instance in lithium-ion battery management and stop/start hybrid car power management to save fuel.
Automotive is seen by Intersil as a worthwhile market because of the growth both in the number of cars being produced every year and in the amount of semiconductor content per car.
In that respect the automotive business remains robust, while other traditional Intersil markets are being impacted by the worldwide economic uncertainty.