Although shipments of microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) sensors used in automotive applications grew 8.4 percent in 2015, revenues were flat compared to the previous year, reaching $2.7 billion. In contrast, the value of this market is expected to recover this year, rising 4.3 percent to reach $2.8 billion in 2016, according to IHS Markit (Nasdaq: INFO), a world leader in critical information, analytics and solutions.
The automotive MEMS market is forecast to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 6.9 percent from 2015 to 2022, to reach $3.2 billion in 2022. Global shipments will exceed two billion units for the first time at the end of this period, according to the IHS Markit Automotive Sensor Intelligence Service.
“Just three types of MEMS devices used in the automotive industry account for more than 95 percent of market value: pressure sensors, accelerometers and gyroscopes,” said Richard Dixon, principal analyst, automotive sensors, IHS Markit. “The primary systems relying on these devices are electronic stability control systems, airbags, tire-pressure monitors and manifold absolute-pressure sensors, although IHS tracks 34 other automotive MEMS applications.”
While these markets will remain, by their nature, still relatively small by 2022, the fastest growing volume applications in the coming years will include the detection of pedestrians, air-intake humidity measurement, microphones for hands-free calling in infotainment systems and microbolometers for night-vision systems used in driver assistance. New sensor areas on the horizon include scanning mirrors for head-up displays and adaptive LED headlights.
Top 10 automotive MEMS sensor suppliers
For second-tier suppliers of automotive sensors, 2015 was a good year. However, significant devaluations of the Euro and Yen affected the businesses of several companies. Leading Germany-based sensor supplier Robert Bosch was among the companies hit by exchange rate weakness, but its business continues to soar in local currency and shipments.
Sensata followed Bosch in the second-ranked position, exhibiting subdued 2015 revenue growth, despite last year’s acquisition of CST, including the sensor business of Kavlico. Along with its strong position in powertrain pressure sensors, Sensata benefits from its high-profile acquisition of Schrader, which made it the leading supplier of tire pressure monitors.
A name new to the MEMS sensor business is NXP, whose acquisition of Freescale last year catapulted the company into third-ranked position. NXP is known for its automotive magnetic sensors, while pressure sensors and accelerometers are the key sensors brought to the company via the Freescale acquisition.
The remaining seven companies also showed subdued results, with Japanese companies like Denso (ranked fourth) and Panasonic (ranked sixth). Both companies were adversely affected by the continued softness of the Yen.