How The Global Computer Chip Shortage Happened




It’s not an overstatement to say that semiconductors power the modern world. They’re not only a key component of nearly every electronic device we buy and use — they also power the factories that make the electronic devices we buy and use. And now, there aren’t enough of them getting made. Here’s how the global semiconductor chip shortage got so bad, and what’s being done to fix it.

A chip shortage that started as consumers stocked up on personal computers and other electronics during the Covid-19 pandemic now threatens to snarl car production around the world.

GM said that it would extend production cuts in the U.S., Canada, and Mexico until the middle of March. They join a long list of major automakers, including Ford, Honda and Fiat Chrysler, which have warned investors or slowed vehicle production because of the chip shortage.

But it’s not just the automotive industry that’s struggling to get enough semiconductors to build their products. AMD and Qualcomm, which sell chips to most of the top electronics firms, have noted the shortage in recent weeks. Sony blamed the chip shortage for why it’s so hard to get a PlayStation 5 game console.

Chips are likely to remain in short supply in coming months as demand remains higher than ever. The Semiconductor Industry Association said in December that global chip sales would grow 8.4% in 2021 from 2020′s total of $433 billion. That’s up from 5.1% growth between 2019 and 2020 — a notable jump, given how large the absolute numbers are.

Semiconductors are in short supply because of strong demand for electronics, shifting business models in the semiconductor world that created a bottleneck among outsourced chip factories, and effects from the U.S. trade war with China that started under former President Trump.

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How The Global Computer Chip Shortage Happened

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