There must be something in our lives that doesn’t require a computer chip, but it’s getting harder to find.
A global shortage of chips that has rattled production lines at car companies and squeezed stockpiles at gadget makers, is now leaving home appliance makers unable to meet demand, according to the president of Whirlpool Corp in China.
The U.S.-based company, one of the world’s largest white goods firms, is falling behind on exports to Europe and the United States from China, by as much as 25% on some months, Jason Ai told Reuters in Shanghai.
“It’s a perfect storm. On the one hand we have to satisfy domestic demand for appliances, on the other hand we’re facing an explosion of export orders. As far as chips go, for those of us in China, it was inevitable.”
The company has struggled to secure enough micro-controllers, simple processors that power over half of its products including microwaves, refrigerators, and washing machines.
While the chip shortage has affected a range of high-end suppliers like Qualcomm Inc, it originated and remains most severe for mature technologies, for example, power-management chips used in cars.
The chip shortage, which began in earnest in late December, was caused in part as automakers miscalculated demand and pandemic-fuelled sales of smartphones and laptops surged. It forced carmakers including General Motors to cut production and increased costs for smartphone makers such as Xiaomi Corp.
And with every company that uses chips in its products panic buying to shore up its stockpile, the shortage has blindsided not just Whirlpool but other appliance makers too.
As demand soared and chips remained in limited supply, prices rose, which might eventually show up as inflation in retail stores.