Chip factories like Polar use these tools to make chips on 200-millimeter silicon wafers, which were state-of-the-art two decades ago. Now, advanced chips are made using much larger wafers, but there is still a lot of demand for simpler, older chips.
The demand has been supercharged by a combination of the COVID-19-driven boom in computer gear and unexpected strength in auto sales that resulted in shortages. General Motors Co on Wednesday extended production cuts at three North American plants and added a fourth to the list of factories hit, and Fiat Chrysler owner Stellantis warned the pain could linger far into the year. Shortages forced Ford Motor Co to slash shifts for production of its F-150 pickup truck, a longtime profit driver.
Automakers use a range of chips in cars. Some, such as those in infotainment systems, are made in the same cutting-edge chip factories that make smartphone chips. But other chips in braking and engine systems are made using older, proven technologies that meet automakers’ durability and reliability requirements.
But the machines to make those older chips can take six to nine months to find, said Surya Iyer, vice president of operations and quality at…