MUNICH (dpa-AFX) - At the end of the year, the shortage of materials eased at least in parts of German industry. In the new year, car manufacturers and other companies plagued by chronic supply problems then also hope for an improvement in the situation. At present, the situation varies greatly depending on the industrial sector, as reported by individual companies and the Bavarian Business Association - Bavaria is home to many large industrial companies.

"Compared to the spring, the situation has improved significantly," reports a spokeswoman for Bosch Siemens Hausgeräte (BSH). "We can produce the majority of our appliances normally and deliver them to retailers, including our dishwashers, which were particularly hard hit by the delivery problems."

According to the report, small appliances such as kitchen machines, fully automatic coffee machines and vacuum cleaners are very much available for delivery, as are large freestanding machines such as tumble dryers. "For a few series and products, specific electronic components are still in short supply and delivery times are still somewhat longer," the BSH spokeswoman says. "Overall, however, the supply situation of electronic components and chips has eased and we expect a further recovery in the coming year."

The shortage of electronic components has been a major reason for faltering production in the industry over the past two years. The most important German manufacturer of semiconductors and chips is Infineon. According to the Munich-based group, the cooling of the global economy has also contributed to the improvement in the situation. "Demand for electronic products in the consumer sector has been weaker recently, which is partially easing the supply situation," says an Infineon spokesman. He cites smartphones and computers as examples.

Figures for December are not yet available, but according to the Munich-based Ifo Institute, 59.3 percent of companies surveyed monthly reported material shortages in November; still a large number, but the lowest since April 2021.

However, there are still major supply problems for some chips. According to Infineon, the supply situation has been particularly tight recently for microcontrollers. These are chips with their own processor that are used, for example, in cars to control many vehicle functions. "Capacities are still tight, but we expect the situation to ease increasingly in the course of 2023," the spokesman says.

Infineon continues to expect strong growth in demand for power semiconductors. These are electronic elements that can be used to control high electrical voltages and currents and are used, for example, in electric motors or even the power generators of wind turbines.

Both microcontrollers and power semiconductors are important for car manufacturers. According to the Ifo Institute, the automotive industry suffered the most from supply bottlenecks of all industrial sectors in November. Accordingly, Audi in Ingolstadt is not talking about easing the situation, but about a "structural undersupply of semiconductors".

That's not the only ongoing problem: "In addition to the general supply shortage, additional circumstances, such as the Ukraine war, the energy crisis or even measures taken as part of the Corona pandemic, are making it difficult to keep global supply chains running smoothly," says a spokeswoman - stressing that despite the challenges, Audi has come through the semiconductor crisis well so far. "We're producing whenever we can."

The VW subsidiary also expects the supply situation for semiconductors to ease in 2023, but not entirely. Accordingly, Audi continues to anticipate "individual bottlenecks in automotive-specific semiconductor technologies."

The shortage of materials and precursors has eased somewhat recently, but remains a major problem for companies, sums up Bertram Brossardt, CEO of the Bavarian Business Association (vbw). "It is positive that the supply bottlenecks are currently easing slightly. But in part, this is simply a consequence of the slowing global economy." According to the report, many companies are reporting that orders are being postponed, reduced or completely canceled. "The supply problem caused by bottlenecks is compounded by a demand problem."

Apart from that, uncertainties remain, especially the situation in China. The draconian Corona restrictions there were a major cause of the global supply problems. Now economists and managers are pondering what impact the Chinese leadership's Corona about-face will have on the global economy. Following the end of the rigid isolation of Corona-infected people, the virus is spreading so rapidly in China that in some factories half the workforce had already called in sick before Christmas and delivery services had ceased operations./cho/DP/he