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A Trade Ruling Just Complicated Ford's Electric-Truck Plans

By John Rosevear - Updated Feb 11, 2021 at 10:06AM

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The ruling puts the automaker's battery supplier in a tough spot.

A ruling by the U.S. International Trade Commission may have thrown a wrench into Ford Motor Company's (F -2.37%) plan to launch an electric F-150 pickup next year.

The International Trade Commission on Wednesday upheld an earlier ruling against Korean battery maker SK Innovation, which has been accused by rival LG Chem (OTC: LGCEY) of stealing trade secrets related to lithium-ion battery manufacturing. The commission ruled that SK Innovation is prohibited from importing its batteries into the U.S. for 10 years. 

SK Innovation is building two factories in Georgia to supply Ford and Volkswagen (VWAGY -2.40%) with batteries for upcoming electric vehicles (EVs), including the F-150 and a U.S.-made version of VW's ID.4 electric SUV. The fate of those factories is now up in the air.

A Ford F-150 at the groundbreaking for Ford's new electric-truck factory in Michigan in October 2020.

Ford plans to launch an electric version of its F-150 pickup next year. But a new ruling may sideline its battery supplier. Image source: Ford Motor Company.

The Biden administration, which is pushing for increased adoption of EVs and for U.S. manufacturing of EV components, has the power to intervene and may do so. The White House has 60 days to review the ruling and can alter or overrule the commission's decision, though such changes are uncommon.

The ruling does allow SK Innovation to import equipment necessary to make batteries for Ford and Volkswagen for four and two years, respectively, to give the automakers time to find another battery supplier.

It's possible that the dispute will be resolved without White House intervention. An official at LG Chem's battery unit told Automotive News that he expects SK Innovation to resume settlement talks that were put on hold last year while the appeal was pending. 

LG Chem supplies batteries to rival automakers including General Motors (GM -2.07%). 

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