Three U.S. senators urge more Taiwanese help on automotive chip shortage -letter

WASHINGTON, Aug 19 (Reuters) - A trio of Democratic U.S. senators has asked the Taiwanese government for more help to address the ongoing chip shortage that has left numerous American auto production lines standing idle at times, according to a letter reviewed by Reuters.

The letter, dated Aug. 18 and not previously made public, was sent by Michigan Senators Gary Peters and Debbie Stabenow and Ohio’s Sherrod Brown to Taiwan’s de facto ambassador in Washington, Hsiao Bi-khim, praising his “efforts to address the shortage.”

But the senators added they were “hopeful you will continue to work with your government and foundries to do everything possible to mitigate the risk confronting our state economies.”

The shortage has prompted new rounds of production cuts, auto worker layoffs and rippled through the economies of states that are heavily dependent on the auto industry.

The Taiwanese government did not immediately comment Thursday.

Ford Motor Co on Wednesday said it would halt output for a week starting Monday at production lines that build its best-selling F-150 pickup trucks because of the shortage. Meanwhile, General Motors Co suspended production for a week at three North American truck plants earlier this month because of the same issue.

Nissan Motor earlier this month halted production for two weeks at a major Tennessee plant over COVID-19 in Malaysia and chips issues.

An auto trade group has estimated that because of the chip shortage there could be 1.3 million fewer vehicles made in the United States in 2021, or a more than 10% cut over pre-pandemic levels.

The senators told Hsiao “what we are hearing at this point is that the risk of shortages clearly has extended into 2022, despite the considerable efforts in Taiwan to augment production.”

Last month, Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co Ltd (TSMC) , the world’s largest contract chipmaker, said the auto chip shortage will gradually tail off for its customers from this quarter, but said it expects overall semiconductor capacity tightness to extend possibly into 2022.

“Demand for vehicles - from cars to commercial trucks - is now up, yet the lack of semiconductor chips is preventing this renewed demand from being met,” the senators wrote.

“At a time when our manufacturers should be adding extra shifts, they have had to idle U.S. plants or curtail production. The U.S. is now the most impacted region in the world.”

In their letter, the senators went on to offer Taiwan help in addressing its ongoing COVID-19 pandemic issues.

“We are carefully monitoring the COVID challenge in Taiwan and stand ready to help,” the senators wrote.

“As policy leaders, we share a keen understanding of the challenge your country is facing and appreciate the steps you are taking to protect both the human and economic health of your country.”

In June, the United States sent Taiwan 2.5 million COVID-19 vaccine doses, more than three times the initial allocation of shots for the island.

The senators added they backed “President Biden’s efforts to make excess vaccines available to Taiwan, which are critical to ensuring the health and wellbeing of everyone on the island.” (Reporting by David Shepardson in Washington; Additional reporting by Ben Blanchard in Taipei; Editing by Kenneth Maxwell)