The ramp of the Ford F-150 Electric, the veteran automaker’s response to upcoming electric trucks like the Tesla Cybertruck, Rivian R1T, and the Hummer EV, has hit a speed bump. SK Innovation, the automaker’s battery supplier, received a 10-year import ban in the United States over allegations of theft from fellow South Korean battery firm LG Chem.
According to the International Trade Commission (ITC), SK Innovation will be allowed to import components for four years beginning now for the local US production of the Ford F-150 Electric, which is expected to start production next year. The ITC has also given SK Innovation two years to support the ramp of Volkswagen’s MEB line of electric cars, some of which will be built in the US. The grace periods SK Innovation has been given should provide Ford and Volkswagen ample time to transition to new domestic suppliers.
SK Innovation’s legal troubles in the United States were triggered when LG Chem Ltd accused its fellow South Korean firm of stealing its battery production secrets. LG argued that SK hired over 70 of its former employees so it could gain access to sensitive information about its battery manufacturing process and then destroyed pertinent evidence to cover its tracks.
LG Chem claimed that SK Innovation’s alleged theft enabled the company to receive billions of dollars worth of battery contracts from automakers like Ford and Volkswagen.
“SKI’s total disregard of our warnings and intellectual property rights gave us no choice but to file this case,” LG Energy Solution chief executive Jong Hyun Kim noted in a statement, as per a report from BNN Bloomberg. Trade Judge Cameron Elliot noted that the destruction of pertinent documents was “done with a culpable state of mind and with the intent to hide evidence of trade secret misappropriation.”
For its part, SK Innovation denied any wrongdoing, arguing that the information it received was not secret at all. The battery supplier noted that the judgment in favor of LG Chem was too harsh a punishment, adding that it would seek a veto from the Biden administration since the 10-year import ban could result in delays for the US President’s EV adoption plans.
SK Innovation noted in a statement that it is still fortunate for the commission’s grace period, which should allow it to provide batteries to Ford and Volkswagen. As for Ford, the veteran automaker noted that the ITC’s decision against SK Innovation does not mean its plans for the F-150 Electric will be derailed.
“This ITC decision supports our plans to bring the all-electric Ford F-150 to market in mid-2022. Providing this zero-emissions, purpose-built truck for our customers is an important part of our plan to lead the electric vehicle revolution and is a top priority for the company,” Ford noted.