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Automotive memory

SK Hynix in talks to supply automotive DRAM to Bosch

Apr 06, 2021 (Gmt+09:00)

SK Hynix's second-generation DDR5 DRAM chip
SK Hynix's second-generation DDR5 DRAM chip

South Korea’s SK Hynix Inc. is in talks to supply its memory chips for cars to Robert Bosch GmbH, a German multinational tech giant, given accelerated growth in the automotive chip market, driven by autonomous vehicles.

SK Hynix is in the final stage of negotiations with Bosch over the exclusive supply of automotive DRAM chips, according to semiconductor industry sources on Apr. 6.

If a deal is reached, the Korean chipmaker will supply the product for more than 10 years, the sources said. The value of the potential contract was unknown.

Officials from the German auto component company visited SK Hynix’s offices in Korea to discuss the matter in late 2020, they said.

“Bosch usually procures semiconductors through distribution channels. It’s very rare for the company to directly contact a chip supplier,” said an industry official, adding that Bosch is known to prefer long-term supply contracts.

The negotiations come at a time when the global DRAM market for automotive applications is forecast to grow rapidly with the gradual takeoff of the self-driving car market.

According to market research firm TrendForce, the DRAM capacity for an autonomous vehicle will double to 4 gigabytes (GB) this year from 2GB in 2020. The capacity is expected to again double to 8GB by 2024, it said.

Currently, automotive memory accounts for a mere 2% of the global DRAM market, but analysts say the automotive DRAM market will expand to 4% over the next five years.

“With the technological advancements of self-driving cars, the DRAM capacity for the infotainment system and ADAS (advanced driver-assistance system) in such cars also rises accordingly,” said a chip industry official.

AUTO CHIP MARKET SET TO TAKE OFF

Korea’s two biggest chipmakers – Samsung Electronics Co. and SK Hynix – are the leaders in the global DRAM market, but have taken little interest in automotive memory chips as they are less profitable and subject to higher industry standards, such as requiring a wider range of activation temperatures, than those for consumer devices.

Hyundai Motor's autonomous JV Motional, being tested on a public road
Hyundai Motor's autonomous JV Motional, being tested on a public road

Some auto parts makers demand automotive chips function properly even at temperatures exceeding 100 degrees Celsius and below minus 40 degrees.

However, as global automakers are manufacturing an increasing number of autonomous cars, Korean chipmakers are showing interest in automotive DRAM chips.

According to market researcher Omdia, Micron Technology Inc. is the top player in the global automotive DRAM market. The company’s revenue from its automotive memory business was $1.41 billion in 2020, almost five times larger than Samsung’s $295 million.

The talks between SK Hynix and Bosch also come amid growing signs that the global DRAM market is entering a boom cycle, with chip prices on an ascending trendline and major chipmakers spending generously to ramp up facilities.

Industry leaders such as Samsung Electronics and SK Hynix are already running their plants at full capacity, but a shortage is increasingly becoming an issue as makers of cars, smartphones and electronic devices compete for chips amid depleting supplies.

Write to Jeong-Soo Hwang at hjs@hankyung.com

In-Soo Nam edited this article.

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