SK Innovation, a Korean battery supply company has been accused by their competitor, LG Chem of stealing innovation and intellectual property. The accusation is serious enough that it went to court where a judge place a 10-year ban on SK Innovation.
So what’s the big deal about this story? Well, SK Innovation is the main supplier of battery innovation to Ford Motor Company for the upcoming all-electric F-150. The EV F-150 is slated to launch in 2022.
So will the ruling and subsequent ban for SK Innovation impact production of the EV F-150? It doesn’t appear so as part of the judge’s ruling includes a four-year stay for JK to continue importing components slated for the F-150. JK is also the main supplier of battery components for Volkswagen’s electric vehicles too.
A spokesperson for Ford said, “The ITC decision supports our plans to bring the all-electric Ford F-150 to market in mid-2022.”
On his Twitter account, Ford CEO Jim Farley directly addressed this legal dispute. He implored the two suppliers to work out some kind of settlement in order to put this dispute to rest. It would be in Ford’s best interest, Farley Tweeted. See his entire Tweet below.
Speaking of batteries, some news broke today from Ford Motor Company that has environmental impacts that Ford seems proud to mention.
Initiative for Responsible Mining Assurance (IRMA)
Ford has become the first American automaker to join the Initiative for Responsible Mining Assurance, or IRMA, an expansion of the company’s commitment to safeguard human rights, communities where such work is done, and the broader environment.
The membership is another step towards the company’s human rights aspiration to responsibly source all raw materials used within vehicles globally – a journey Ford has been taking steps toward for over 20 years.
Ford has also committed to lead the electric vehicle and sustainable mobility revolution and nearly doubled, to $22 billion, what it will invest in developing EVs and create solutions. That work will increase the company’s reliance on mined material, particularly related to production of electric vehicle batteries.
“Everything we make and everything that goes into our products throughout the supply chain must not only comply with local laws, but follow our commitment to sustainability and human rights protection,” said Sue Slaughter, Ford’s purchasing director for supply chain sustainability. “Joining IRMA helps us and other companies consistently achieve that goal by forwarding best practices to address environmental, social, and governance issues.”
The company’s work with IRMA will support collaborative work with cross-industry brands so that together we may communicate to mining companies consistent, clear, shared expectations for responsible practices.
“We welcome Ford's membership and commend their leadership as the first American automaker to join IRMA," said Aimee Boulanger, executive director, IRMA. "We look forward to working with Ford as it joins a growing number of companies leveraging their purchasing to protect communities and the environment on which they depend where mining happens.”
Natural Gas Shortage Leads to Kansas City Plant Shutting Down Production for a Week
Ford is in the middle of launching several key vehicles, including their best-selling F-150. The 14th-generation F-150 is being produced in bulk at two different manufacturing facilities, but as my colleague Marc Stern reported, a microchip semiconductor shortage, due to the pandemic, has made for production delays for Ford’s vehicles including the F-150.
Now, with most of the Midwest being pummeled by a major winter storm, Ford just announced that their Kansas City Truck plant would shut down for a week, due to a concern over a shortage of natural gas (used for heating).
"Due to unseasonably cold temperatures in the midsection of the United States, Ford was warned that the availability of natural gas could be restricted in the Kansas City area in the coming days," said Kelli Felker, global manufacturing and labor communications manager in a statement published in the Detroit Free Press.
"To ensure we minimize our use of natural gas that is critical to heat people’s homes, we have decided to cancel operations," she said.
Between the chip shortage, and now the week-long shutdown in Kansas City, Ford cannot afford mass delays for the 2021 F-150. There’s already a high demand and low inventory for the F-150.
Ford was just emerging from the pandemic of 2020 and can’t afford too many further delays whether parts-related, weather-related, or in the case of their battery supplier, legal-related. Delays are delays when it comes to consumer demand. Surely there will be some leeway granted and patience is most certainly a virtue.
Jimmy Dinsmore has been an automotive journalist for more than a decade and been a writer since the high school. His Driver’s Side column features new car reviews and runs in several newspapers throughout the country. He is also co-author of the book “Mustang by Design” and “Ford Trucks: A Unique Look at the Technical History of America’s Most Popular Truck”. Also, Jimmy works in the social media marketing world for a Canadian automotive training aid manufacturing company. Follow Jimmy on Facebook, Twitter, at his special Ford F-150 coverage on Twitter and LinkedIn. You can read the most of Jimmy's stories by searching Torque News Ford for daily Ford vehicle report.