Although automotive sales have slowed during the summer, the automotive semiconductor market is still forecasted to grow 23.5% in 2010 (US$19.334 billion), according to Gartner. These healthy numbers are not due to just the new 'green' (hybrid) cars that are beginning to hit the market (though their content does and will continue to dramatically boost semi content counts).
Overall, the number of sensors and infotainment features with touch-screens in vehicles is adding on units. Content from these safety and information features are set to grow over the next five years, according to this week's report from Gartner: "The semiconductor content of safety systems will almost double, from $2.2 billion in 2009 to $4.3 billion in 2014 […]. Meanwhile semiconductor for multimedia entertainment systems […] will show growth of 7.2 percent CAGR."
Beyond these features are the newer opportunities for increased chip content, such as the expanding functionality of key fobs. The remote entry and keyless start options of newer fobs (such as in the Toyota Prius and some BMWs, among other brands), has gained consumer interest. The ability to expand the use of these devices for GPS location of car in a large lot and fee payment options (such as parking meters) are now being explored. These expansions will necessitate increased chip unit content and more sophisticated crypto co-processors (esp. for payment).
On average, the CAGR for the various classes of automotive semis range in the low teens; healthy numbers to be sure. However, the supply chain problems that continue to plague the industry have also hurt automotive dealers. As ElectronicsWeekly reported here and we contextualized here, Nissan had to close six factories this summer due to chip shortages from STMicroelectronics. That's a tough market miss for any company, but especially in tough cycles as in automotive presently; and these kitting and raw material problems continue to plague the semi supply chains today with increasing bottlenecks causing inventory problems (cf. this latest report from iSuppli).