In April this year, Renesas chief executive Bunsei Kure surprised everyone when he was reported saying that the company may finance further acquisitions through equity. The company has only just completed its acquisition—in late February—of Intersil for about $3.2 billion. That acquisition was largely billed as necessary for the company's survival.

How is that acquisition working for Renesas? We recently met Intersil's senior marketing manager Jonpaul S. Jandu at their Milipitas United States facility and talked about how their product line-up fits in the new company potential markets and possible new sales approach.

EE Times Asia: How do your product lines fit together?
Jandu: Where this merger-acquisition makes most sense to me being a product guy is the synergy between the product lines. They do powertrain body chassis infotainment HEV/EV and ADAS. Where we are doing the same thing as them is infotainment ADAS and HEV/EV. But what’s good is that we don’t have overlapping products. We have complementary products.

So their MCU goes with our battery management IC—power can go around anything. My video chips go net to their R-Car SoC. The companies blend together very well.

201707_EETA_Intersil_Renesas_ComplementaryProductLineup_cr Figure 1: Jandu highlighted HEV/EV and ADAS on this graphic from his presentation, saying he considers both companies to be strong in these segments and that these are the fastest growing segments in the automotive market.

In the future will you be looking at a more or less systems approach?
Absolutely. So for example they have the SoC and the MCU. We could populate the vast majority of the power to go around those chips. My video chip [the recently announced TW884x] also plays a complementary role to their SoC.

One of the big integration initiatives in our company is synergy systems selling and system reference design. We can do much more complete turnkey reference designs. We have already identified a lot of synergy in putting things together. For HUD the R-Car processor can generate all the graphics. We make the laser diode drivers.

Today a lot of them [HUD] are LCD based. With laser displays you can do a much more dynamic display [that’s also less obtrusive. Video signal processing is Intersil’s product. LCD controllers and VSPs sit next to the R-Car and complement it very well.

Are you also looking at greater integration down the line into a single chip?
Depending on the nature of the technology it’s possible. Yes. There could be some functionality in my chip that makes sense to add to the SoC. Some things it may make sense to keep outside just for redundancy sake and system reliability. But there are aspects and features that it would make sense to integrate more.

So there’s IP that Intersil has which could go into Renesas processors and vice versa.

With reference to the new product [TW884x] if there’s any special mode or timing that R-Car needs of course we are going to support it. My goal is to stay an agnostic chip.

We could turn this into an advantage and say the software to make our chips talk to each other is already there—it’s proven; we have a reference kit. If you use a different SoC you do that on your own. It’s not very hard for my chip but if you have a reference design it’s always better. So we’ll have advantages against the other SoCs.

To your point earlier we could start integrating some of the functions that my chip does into the R-Car. For the video chip though it gives you reliability outside the SoC—it makes sense to keep it outside.

Does the acquisition give you an advantage because Renesas talks directly to car OEMs?
Usually we don’t get to talk to tier 2 OEMs as much because we are a power management devices company. SoC guys like Renesas talk to them because their whole architecture of the infotainment system is based on the processor capability.

There are cycles in the industry. Years ago Ford GM had their own electronics division and they made their own radios. Then it became a commodity and all the radios looked the same. They stopped designing it and put a quote out and all the tier 1’s would bid.

Now it’s evolving again. When it became navi [navigation system] the tier 1s were still doing the architecture. Today it’s an operating system. It’s a user interface. How do I connect my phone. How do I speed dial to my family. How do I do lane-departure detection. All these safety and usability functions are being built in.

So the OEMs have taken that type of ownership back into their company. If I rely on Delphi Visteon and Panasonic—the tier 1 suppliers—to make this the tier 1 is pitching to every OEM. There’s no differentiation for them.

If they own the architecture and the software then they can tell the tier 1 to meet their system requirement that they design; the tier 1 has to have this level of processing etc. Then the tier 1 has less flexibility but the system in the car is unique. So the system and the user interface in General Motors is very different from the one in Ford or Toyota.

Not all carmakers mandate what the tier 1 suppliers can use but they “pseudo mandate.” They mandate a list of features that maybe 1 or 2 SoCs have those features.

Yes with this bypass architecture [TW844x] I get to talk directly to a lot of OEMs too because they want to understand how we solve this frozen software issue. Also for our battery management.

But the level of engagement and the number of OEMs that we’re engaged with because of Renesas is much more than what we could do on our own. Since the OEMs are owning all this working with them is critical now. And Renesas has great relations with the OEMs.

Renesas SoCs, however, as far as I can see, have not been that popular in China. Because we sit next to the SoC we know all these tier 1s in China. What’s good for Renesas is that I have those relationships with those companies from my chip. So I can introduce them. Whereas in Japan being part of Renesas helps. I can help them penetrate China a little better. So that synergy is not just technology it’s market.

Next: India China poised to lead next-gen car design »