Highlighting the signficant shift in the automotive semiconductor supply chain, Ford has signed a ground-breaking deal to buy chips directly from foundry GlobalFoundries in the US that could well lead to it buying an ASIC design house.
The strategic collaboration aims to advance semiconductor manufacturing and technology development within the US and boost chip supplies for Ford and the US automotive industry. This follows suggestions by General Motors that it also would buy chips directly.
GF and Ford also will explore expanded semiconductor manufacturing opportunities to support the automotive industry, which says that Ford will pay upfront to guarantee capacity for its suppliers. This presumably includes Qualcomm which has a deal with Ford for V2X chips built by GF.
The non-binding agreement opens the door for GF to create further semiconductor supply for Ford’s current vehicle lineup and joint research and development to address the growing demand for feature-rich chips for automotive. These could include chips for ADAS, battery management systems, and in-vehicle networking for an automated, connected, and electrified future.
GF process technology is focussed on mainstream digital and mixed signal technologies from 12nm up, with a focus on 22nm and 28nm production. The deal implies that Ford could look at commissioning pin compatible ‘fit, form and function’ alternatives to current chips from Texas Instruments and NXP where shortages have held up production. This is more likely to include dual sourcing agreements to ensure regular supply of future parts.
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As neither Ford nor GF currently have chip design capabilities, this suggests there will be work for US design houses with experience in such parts, working with Ford’s R&D department. Who would own the IP for such parts, which would be made in high volume, would be a key question. This is likely to see Ford purchase a US or European ASIC design house as part of a move to vertical integration