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Components | August 24, 2011

Automotive MEMS sensors to return to healthy growth in 2012

The automotive MEMS sensor market will reach new heights in 2012, leaving behind the ups and downs of the last two years, including the impact of the recent Japan earthquake, according to IHS iSuppli.
Global automotive MEMS sensor revenue will jump a solid 16% in 2012 to USD 2.31 billion on its way to USD 2.93 billion in 2015. The years ahead also will see expansion continuing at a healthy clip, with the overall five-year compound annual growth rate (CAGR) from 2010 to 2015 projected at 9%.

Automotive sensors are employed in vehicles to improve performance and comfort as well as to enhance safety, finding their way into systems such as air bags, tire-pressure monitoring and vehicle stabilization control.

“The next few years will bring strong growth in automotive MEMS sensor revenue as vehicle production recovers rapidly and safety system mandates begin to accelerate toward full fitment in the regions of their implementation,” said Richard Dixon, senior analyst for MEMS and sensors at IHS.

A subdued 2011

This year, however, will see the market decelerate as a result of the Japanese quake impact in March.

Global automotive MEMS revenue in 2011 is projected to reach USD 1.99 billion, up just 4% from USD 1.91 billion in 2010, compared to last year’s 28% expansion.

Automotive MEMS unit shipments in 2011 also are set for relatively tepid growth, up only 9% to 750.7 million units, compared to a 36% increase last year.

"The March quake in Japan is anticipated to result in a production loss of some 2 million vehicles this year throughout the car-manufacturing supply chain,” Mr Dixon said. ”Although some of this will be recovered in 2011, the loss in vehicle production could entail a shortfall in sensor shipments equivalent to some 20 million units this year.”

In addition to the negative impact on MEMS suppliers, the earthquake is making its tremors felt at major local Japanese Tier 1 automotive electronics suppliers, including Denso, which suffered a poor second quarter in 2011 after sales fell 22% from the previous corresponding period.

2012: The year things get better

The return to fast growth in the automotive MEMS market after 2011 will be driven by a recovery in vehicle production in the years ahead. Furthermore, automotive safety mandates on ESC that require multiple MEMS sensors also will kick in for the United States, Canada, Australia, Europe and eventually Japan, along with mandates for TPMS in Europe and China, helping the MEMS industry to generate more profits.

In particular, the China mandate that comes into force by 2012 has aggressive fitment rates that must be attained by 2015. Given the magnitude of the Chinese market, such a development will have a tremendous impact on the sales of pressure sensors for direct TPMS.

The mandate will begin phasing in starting in mid-2012, beginning with a portion of engine sizes larger than 1.6 liters. In July 2015, the mandate will apply to all engine sizes, IHS iSuppli research shows.

Thanks to mandates in various regions throughout the world, shipments of TPMS sensors are projected to grow fivefold, propelling the market to a penetration of 73% of all vehicles by 2015. To play in this market, however, pressure sensor suppliers will have to accept tough price cuts of up to 8% a year.
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