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Nissan Boss Warns Omicron Variant Could Pressure Microchip Supply

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The Omicron variant could exacerbate the chronic shortage of microchips used in car manufacturing, the head of car giant Nissan has warned.

Makoto Uchida said it was too early to say when normal supplies, and therefore finished cars, would resume.

“I can not give you a date. This new variant could increase the pressure. So it will be crucial how well we respond,” he told Autos Community.

Products such as cars, washing machines and smartphones rely on computer chips.

When the pandemic broke out in 2020, some factories were forced to close, leading to a backlog in the production of microchips, also known as semiconductors.

The impact was exacerbated by rapidly increasing demand as people working from home needed laptops, tablets and webcams to get their work done.

“We have a semiconductor shortage as an industry and how we recover from that is critical,” Uchida told Autos Community.

Japan has banned imports from abroad in response to international alarm over the Omicron variant, which was first discovered in South Africa.

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Mr Uchida’s comments come at a time when Nissan announced its vehicle electrification strategy, which includes the introduction of 23 electrified models by 2030 and a target for electric vehicles to account for 75% of the company’s sales in Europe by 2026.

Earlier this year, Nissan announced a £1 billion investment to make its Sunderland plant in the UK a centre for electric vehicle production.

The targets for China and the US are far less ambitious. Nissan hopes that 40% of cars sold in China will be electric or hybrid by 2026, while the same proportion will not be reached in the US until 2030 due to slower consumer uptake.

The company has not given a target date for the elimination of internal combustion engines. At the recent COP26 climate summit, Nissan, along with Toyota, VW and BMW, refused to sign a commitment to phase out internal combustion engines by 2040, along with Ford and Volvo.

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Nissan is also investing more money in the development of solid-state batteries, which the industry hopes will eventually prove more efficient than the current lithium-ion batteries that are considered the industry standard.

Mr Uchida said Nissan remains committed to its alliance with Renault and Mitsubishi, the brainchild of former Nissan chief executive Carlos Ghosn, now living in exile in Beirut after being smuggled out of Japan while awaiting trial for financial crimes. Mr Ghosn vehemently denies the allegations.

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