By David Shepardson
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Ford Motor Co’s chief executive, Jim Farley, on Thursday publicly encouraged South Korea’s chemicals and electric vehicle (EV) battery maker LG Chem Ltd and SK Innovation Co Ltd to reach a settlement on LG’s battery allegations that SK stole trade secrets.
The U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) on Wednesday sided with LG Chem, but permitted SK to import components for domestic production of lithium ion batteries for Ford’s EV F-150 program for four years, and for Volkswagen of America’s electric vehicle line for two years.
“A voluntary settlement between these two suppliers is ultimately in the best interest of US manufacturers and workers,” Farley wrote on Twitter, adding that “ITC ruling makes way for @Ford to bring to market our groundbreaking electric F-150.”
LG Energy Solution and SK Innovation did not have comment on the matter when reached by Reuters on Friday. Volkswagen declined to comment.
The ITC said the decision would allow the automakers to transition to new suppliers for these programs.
LG Chem’s wholly owned battery subsidiary, LG Energy Solution, an EV battery supplier to Tesla Inc and General Motors Co, praised the ruling on Wednesday.
“SKI’s total disregard of our warnings and intellectual property rights gave us no choice but to file this case,” Kim Jong-hyun, the CEO of LG Energy Solution, said in a statement.
SK Innovation said on Wednesday it regretted the ITC’s decision but noted there was a 60-day presidential review period in which President Joe Biden could decide to reverse the ruling. Biden has made electric vehicles and reducing vehicle emissions a top priority. The White House declined to comment.
Volkswagen and Ford previously warned a U.S. legal row between South Korean battery makers could disrupt supplies of the key EV parts and cost U.S. jobs during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Farley said last week on a conference call with analysts that Ford’s $22 billion investment in electrification does not include potential investment in battery production, whether through Ford itself or via a joint venture.
(Reporting by David Shepardson in Washington and Ben Klayman in Detroit; Additional reporting by Heekyong Yang in Seoul; Editing by Christopher Cushing)