Ford swaps battery partners for Turkish plant

According to industry insiders, Ford is changing battery partners for its planned battery cell factory in Turkey in order to diversify its battery suppliers. Instead of using SK On, its rival LG Energy Solution is now being given the job.

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Automotive News reported the change with reference to company insiders. Ford signed a letter of intent with SK On last spring for a new joint venture in Turkey to build a commercial vehicle battery cell production facility with an annual capacity of 30 to 45 GWh. According to the new report, this letter of intent will not be followed by a definitive agreement.

The cited insiders say that the motivation behind the switch is that Ford wants to position itself more broadly among its global battery suppliers in order to reduce dependencies. Ford is ramping up production of electric vehicles, planning to release 7 new BEVS in Europe by 2024.

The US-American company already works closely with SK On. In Europe, Ford wants to source battery cells from an SK On plant in Hungary. The Korean battery manufacturer is Ford’s partner for the two cell factories currently under construction in the USA where the BlueOval SK joint venture is known to be building in Kentucky (2x 43 GWh) and in Tennessee (1x 43 GWh). Ford’s electrification push on the US market is based on these plants and the SK factory in Georgia.

According to insiders, Ford will not be using SK On in Turkey, but rather LG Energy Solution (LGES). A memorandum of understanding to that effect between Ford and LGES is expected to be finalised in late January or early February. A spokesperson for LGES declined to comment to Automotive News. Ford, on the other hand, only stated in general terms that the battery project was on track.

This wouldn’t be the first time Ford has sourced battery cells from LGES. The Ford Mustang Mach-E built in Mexico already uses LG cells from the LG factory in Poland. Ford and Chinese battery market leader CATL are also likely considering a collaboration for a US factory, so if these December reports are confirmed, it means Ford is trying to diversify with three very separate major battery partners.

In Turkey, Ford Otosan builds several commercial vehicles, such as the E-Transit for Europe (US production is based in Kansas City), but also the smaller E-Transit Custom and E-Tourneo Custom. This model used to only be available as a plug-in hybrid, but will also come as a purely electric transporter in the new generation. Ford Transit Courier panel van is to be built as an electric version at Ford’s Craiova plant in Romania in 2024, as is the Tourneo Courier passenger car version and an electric Puma.

Update 10 February 2023

A Ford spokesperson has confirmed that Ford remains committed to the deal. “The non-binding MOU signed between Ford, Koc and SK On is currently in force and our plans for a battery production site in Turkey are on track,” they said. However, at the same time, Ford did drop their shares in Rivian., (update)