A supplier with one of the biggest industrial projects now underway in the U.S. auto industry — a $2.6 billion electric vehicle battery plant in north Georgia — expects a ruling from federal trade officials next week that could shut down construction.
The legal question could create dire complications for two closely watched vehicle programs: Ford Motor Co.'s planned F-150 electric pickup and Volkswagen's upcoming global family of EVs.
The nub of the situation is whether the Georgia battery supplier, SK Innovation of South Korea, is using stolen intellectual property for the batteries it plans to make — a claim SK denies.
SK, a global producer of electronics, petrochemicals, energy and batteries, has been embroiled since last year in litigation with Korean competitor LG Chem, which claims SK's batteries use proprietary LG Chem technology, obtained when SK hired away about 100 LG Chem employees.
The feud is now in the hands of the U.S. International Trade Commission, which is due to issue a final ruling Oct. 26.
SK officials have stated that the plant, under construction and preparing to begin hiring employees in Commerce, Ga., about 70 miles northeast of Atlanta, will go forward regardless of the ruling.
Sources familiar with SK's situation say the company has a limited number of options if LG Chem's allegations are upheld.