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Chip Linchpin ASML Joins Carmakers Warning of Vicious Cycle

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(Bloomberg) -- The global semiconductor shortage is hitting one of the industry’s most important gear makers, potentially creating a vicious cycle that will further strain supply to companies from Nissan Motor Co. to Apple Inc.

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ASML Holding NV, whose machines are essential to the production of advanced semiconductors, is waging a “daily fight” to secure chips for itself, Chief Executive Officer Peter Wennink warned. That’s why Europe’s largest producer of chipmaking equipment has set up a team dedicated to tracking down and procuring supplies around the world -- personally, if necessary.

“We are directly impacted, but not that we buy chips. Our suppliers do,” Wennink said in an online press conference on Wednesday. “We figure out which semiconductor manufacturers make these chips, then we pick up the phone and we call them up and say: ‘Can you help us?’”

ASML is the world’s only source of extreme ultraviolet lithography machines used by Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co., Samsung Electronics Co. and Intel Corp. for the most advanced fabrication. It remains on track to ship 55 of the bus-sized systems -- costing 150 million euros ($170 million) apiece -- this year and more in 2023, but demand still outstrips its capacity by 40% to 50% and it could take up to three years to rebalance that, the CEO said.

Its plight has raised the prospect of a never-ending loop where a shortage of chips hits gear makers, which then can’t crank out enough of the machines that TSMC and its peers need to actually produce semiconductors. That’s bad particularly for carmakers, the worst-hit of a plethora of industries by the shortages. Nissan Motor Co. CEO Makoto Uchida warned again on Thursday that production stoppages could persist, calling the situation uncertain.

ASML’s Attempt to Speed Up its Supply Hits Sales Forecasts

ASML hired close to 6,000 people in 2021 and is expanding headcount by thousands more this year. “Those people need to be trained, they need to get up the learning curve, and that will take time,” Wennink said.

Nissan is just the latest in a string of carmakers who’ve sounded the alarm going into 2022. Toyota Motor Corp. slashed its February production by almost 150,000 cars and said it would be “very difficult” to achieve its full-year target. A week earlier, Renault SA CEO Luca de Meo said he expects the chip crunch to continue haunting automakers through the rest of the year, saying disruptions are likely to peak in the first six months.

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