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Driven by the rapid recovery in automotive production
Marking a new high point for the industry, shipments of automotive MEMS sensors will reach 662.3 million units in 2010, up a robust 32.1% from 501.2 million units in 2009. The projected year-end levels - including the replenishment of inventory pipelines that were depleted during the recession of 2009 - will exceed even the pre-crisis high point in 2007 of 640 million sensors, iSuppli data research shows.
'The recovery in automotive MEMS shipments represents a happy turnaround from the depressed levels of 2009 when shipments cratered and reached a nadir, and the years ahead will provide additional room for expansion,' noted by Richard Dixon, Senior Analyst, MEMS and sensors at iSuppli.
Nonetheless, growth will slow in 2011, with shipments anticipated to climb just 7.3% as the market normalizes following the exuberance in 2010. Production then will pick up again in 2012, and growth rates end up north of 13% by 2014.
One significant engine of automotive MEMS growth is the use of sensors in passenger cars supporting mandated safety technologies such as electronic stability control (ESC) and tire pressure monitoring systems (TPMS).
The United States and Europe have led the adoption of legislation on such safety systems and other countries like Australia and Canada have quickly followed suit. However, similar mandates are now being adopted in South Korea and are expected in Japan, accelerating overall adoption rates worldwide. The extra opportunity from both ESC and TPMS for automotive MEMS suppliers to Japan and Korea will correspond to additional revenue of $120 million in those regions alone for the next five years.
China will also account for a large portion of the automotive MEMS action. Compared to U.S. or European vehicles, the electronics content of low- and mid-range vehicles in China is about 50% or less, but sensor penetration will steadily increase - first in power train application in order to reduce carbon emissions that choke Chinese cities and as safety sensors for additional airbags & ESC systems.
Among the new applications providing suppliers greater production opportunities for automotive MEMS sensors, the most prominent include usage of gas sensors to control air quality in the cabin; infrared thermopiles to monitor temperature; microbolometers to aid night-vision systems and MEMS oscillators to boost rear-view cameras.
iSuppli notes that some consumer-oriented MEMS sensor suppliers are making inroads into the automotive market, widening the pool of players participating in the space.
In particular STMicroelectronics - the leading MEMS supplier for consumer and mobile application and which so far has targeted non-safety critical applications in automotive such as car alarms and navigation - has now entered the airbag market with a high g accelerometer.