Denis Griot has been corporate general manager of the body electronics and occupant safety division at Motorola Semiconductor Products Sector (SPS) in Europe, the Middle East and Africa since 1997. Computer-chip maker Motorola is the leading supplier of semiconductors to the automotive industry. It has a 16 percent market share. Griot was interviewed by Automotive News Europe's Edmund Chew in London on April 11.
How big is the automotive semiconductor market, and how fast is it growing?
The rate of growth is about 17 percent a year. Today, the total market is worth $10 billion. It's going to be worth $40 billion in 2010, or even earlier. The semiconductor content in the car is growing exponentially, moving from an average of $250 today to $850 in nine to 10 years' time.
Has the growth of any particular automotive application taken you by surprise?
Automotive industry forecasting is quite accurate when you compare it to forecasting in the telecommunications and consumer industries. In terms of supply capacity limitation, the pressure we have right now is coming from the nonautomotive market. The automotive area is growing at a faster rate than we would have expected three years ago. But we still have a good record of predictability within the 18-month range.
What's driving this growth?
In the automotive area, the fastest growth is in body electronics and safety electronics. There's also rapid growth in telematics, driver information systems and engine management requirements. There's a rising need for connectivity - both inside and outside the car. Inside, what were once functional black boxes are now becoming real computers. Outside, the telematics revolution has already started. (Telematics applies to any communication to a car from an outside station, such as satellite navigation signals.)
How long before we get interactive driver information systems?
Navigation systems are growing faster than we thought. Japan is ahead of Europe and North America, but both regions are catching up fast. Interactive online navigation systems are the next step forward. We are about to bring out our iRadio our 'smart radio' that would be compatible with those systems. A full range of interactive radios providing online navigation capability will start arriving about 15 months from now.
Do you deal mostly with carmakers or Tier 1 suppliers?
The structure of the automotive industry is evolving. The Tier 1 suppliers are our direct customers and we work with them to implement systems requirements. But in many cases we work with both the carmaker and the Tier 1 supplier. When we're developing future silicon architecture, we can save a lot of computing power by looking at the total picture. We can offer cost savings by sharing computing power between modules. So that is a real triangle of cooperation carmaker, Tier 1 supplier and silicon supplier.
How has industry consolidation affected you?
It's been good for us. It means we can work with a wide range of car designers and Tier 1 systems designers on a long-term basis. There used to be too many short-term supplier-customer relationships. I see plenty of positive changes in this area. I see a lot of Tier 1 suppliers sharing their long-term perspectives with us.
Are electronic applications becoming more widespread?
The majority of high-end and mid-range cars are now heavily dependent on semiconductor and electronics systems. Look at the Mercedes-Benz S-class. All its new functional aids are driven by electronics. The collision avoidance, safety and passive-entry systems are all driven by semiconnectors. There is growing penetration in the low end as well. Even a car such as the Peugeot 206 is available with a full navigation system.
What is the major constraint on the growth of silicon content in a car?
There is no limit. The car is steadily being transformed from a mechanical system into a real electronic system.