Update 11:53 am est: Paragraph 5 added with Sen. Rubio’s emailed statement.
Florida Senator Marco Rubio is calling for an investigation into Ford’s recent announcement of a new battery production facility built in conjunction with Chinese battery supplier CATL.
To achieve a production run rate of 600,000 electric vehicles annually by the end of this year and a run rate of 2 million EVs by the end of 2026, Ford has set its electrification targets high. As part of this $50 billion electrification plan, Ford is building ten new production facilities in the United States, one of them, a battery production facility in Western Michigan, was announced Monday. However, now the automaker is receiving backlash for partnering with Chinese battery maker CATL at the facility.
While Senator Marco Rubio of Florida has made the most comments on the upcoming Ford-CATL battery facility, going as far as demanding an investigation into the tech transfer within the deal, the controversy started at the announcement event earlier this week. According to Reuters, President Biden opted not to appear at the event, despite the audience of numerous other politicians and the fact that Ford’s $3.5 billion facility will be one of the largest battery production facilities in the country.
Rubio’s office said in an emailed statement to Teslarati:
“I am alarmed at Ford’s plan to establish a large, Michigan-based factory, structured as a wholly owned subsidiary that licenses its technology from CATL. As such, I write to request a Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) review of the licensing agreement, as well as demand that no federal funds – especially monies or tax credits granted via the Inflation Reduction Act (P.L. 117-169) – go to enrich PRC national champion CATL, or any other Beijing-supported company, directly or indirectly.”
Perhaps in an attempt to distance itself from the deal, no CATL representatives appeared at the event. Despite Ford CEO Jim Farley briefly mentioning their engineering prowess, it was quickly passed over to focus on the technology Ford would be producing at the plant instead.
Ford was not immediately available to comment to Teslarati regarding the criticism.
As noted by Senator Rubio, the controversy stems from the fact that Ford will be receiving countless federal and state funds in the opening of this battery production facility. This could include anywhere from $20 to $50 per kWh of batteries produced thanks to the Inflation Reduction Act, on top of a $210 million grant from the State of Michigan.
Specifically, Sen. Rubio states that the Ford deal will result in higher dependence on the Chinese for battery production and battery technology, all while receiving American funds to do so.
South Korea is the default secondary option for automakers looking for battery supplies outside China. General Motors has gone as far as creating a joint venture corporation, Ultium, with LG Chem. At the same time, even Ford partnered with SK On, another South Korean brand, to construct and produce batteries at a new facility in Kentucky.
It remains unclear if the Federal government will intervene in the Ford-CATL deal, but there is no doubt Ford chose the least opportune time to partner with a Chinese supplier. Following this attention, it is improbable that other automakers will look to partner with Chinese companies for their battery supply needs in the near future.
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