Bosch retains lead as No. 1 automotive MEMS supplier

Bosch, Denso and the rest of the automotive MEMS Top 10 enjoyed combined revenues in 2011 of more than $2.0 billion, up 11 percent from $1.8 billion the year before. The other companies joining Bosch and Denso in the elite circle included Panasonic, Freescale Semiconductor, Sensata Technologies, Analog Devices, Infineon Technologies AG, VTI Technologies Oy, GE Sensing and Delphi Electronics.

Together the Top 10 accounted for 91 percent of the market last year.

Overall 2011 revenue for automotive MEMS sensors amounted to $2.24 billion, up 14 percent from 2010. Growth occurred despite a disrupted supply chain in the aftermath of natural disasters last year in Japan and Thailand, with expansion in the next two years to be driven hard by government mandates in the United States and Europe for electronic stability control (ESC) and tire-pressure monitoring systems.

“Bosch’s success last year can be credited to its internal captive market, which promoted stable revenue and visibility into future demand for the company,” said Richard Dixon, principal analyst for MEMS & sensors at IHS. “Bosch is a major player in the dominant auto MEMS markets—being the No. 1 supplier overall in MEMS sensor shipments for ESC systems in vehicles; as well as supplying the highest combined total of related automotive MEMS sensors such as accelerometers, gyroscopes and pressure sensors. Bosch’s performance was also boosted by a rapidly growing airbag market in China, along with a surge in demand for frontal and side airbags in the United States, where especially stringent testing is needed for side impacts of vehicle doors, unlike in Europe or anywhere else in the world.”

Runner-up Denso is the major supplier in the Japanese market, with a diverse customer base that also includes almost half of Toyota’s auto MEMS business. Denso as a concern reported heavy declines in sales in the second quarter of last year after the Japan earthquake-tsunami disaster in March, but managed to recoup its losses during the next quarter.

Denso is a top supplier of MEMS sensors of automotive heating/ventilation/air conditioning (HVAC) systems, as well as satellite airbag accelerometers and oil-pressure sensors. Nonetheless, Denso’s growth during the last two years has been relatively subdued compared to the rest of the auto MEMS market, because of an overly strong yen against the U.S. dollar hindered exports.

Moving up a spot to No. 3 last year was Panasonic of Japan, with revenue of $202 million, up 12 percent from $181 million in 2010. Most of Panasonic’s sales came from its automotive gyroscope business, reflecting a narrower focus compared to that of the leading two companies. However, Panasonic is the undisputed leader in in-dash navigation gyroscopes and ranks a very close second to Bosch in gyroscopes needed for ESC systems. The two devices are the highest-priced components in the automotive MEMS space.

Just the same, the company is no longer the sole supplier of yaw rate sensors to European Tier 1 Continental, and in the future will see increased competition from Finnish maker VTI on combo-packaged inertial sensors for ESC systems.

Rounding out the Top 5 last year were U.S. makers Freescale Semiconductor, down one place to No. 4 with automotive MEMS revenue of $191 million; and No. 5 Sensata, separated from Freescale by just $1 million.

The top-ranked U.S. supplier within the circle, Texas-based Freescale is the leading supplier of satellite airbag accelerometers, even though it temporarily lost share in that market last year as a result of earthquake damage to its Sendai facility in Japan.

For its part, Sensata in Massachusetts concentrates MEMS production on pressure sensors, and is No. 1 in high-pressure applications like brake and common fuel rail sensing, using its silicon piezoresistive sensors that are glass-bonded to steel substrates. Sensata also had the second-highest yearly growth rate of 24 percent, ahead of even top-ranked Bosch.

Among the remaining Top 10, growth ranged from an anemic 3 percent for Michigan-based Delphi, to an outsized 36 percent for VTI of Finland—the largest rate of growth within the group, thanks to VTI’s strong position in ESC accelerometers.

Infineon of Germany and Analog Devices from Massachusetts joined Bosch, Sensata and VTI in recording growth rates higher than the industry average of 14 percent, while GE Sensing in California had slightly below-average expansion of 12 percent.

Just outside the Top 10, Fuji Electric of Japan sat in 11th place, with overall revenue of $30 million.

IHS iSuppli

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