Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin is calling an electric-vehicle battery plant planned by Ford Motor Co. and a Chinese partner a “Trojan horse” for China that would undermine policy efforts to strengthen the US auto industry.
The Republican governor, who is considered to be a possible 2024 presidential candidate, defended his decision to remove his state from consideration for the proposed plant, a joint venture between Ford and Contemporary Amperex Technology Co. Ltd., also known as CATL.
“I look forward to bringing a great company there. It won’t be one that uses kind of a Trojan-horse relationship with the Chinese Communist Party in order to gain,” Youngkin said Friday in an interview with Bloomberg Television.
He also said that vying for the plant would have undermined the premise of recently passed legislation championed by President Joe Biden’s administration. That law, known as the Inflation Reduction Act, directs subsidies for EVs and batteries made in North America to wean the US off its dependence on China for battery materials.
“To have that site embroiled in what would have clearly been a deal that contravened the intent and purpose of the Inflation Reduction Act incentives — which is why it was being structured the way it was — could have taken that site offline for an extended period of time,” he said.
The proposed plant, which Michigan and other states have also vied for, is part of a wave of investment by automakers and battery manufacturers. They are spending billions of dollars — and receiving billions more in state and federal subsidies — as part of a transition from gasoline-powered vehicles to EVs.
CATL, the world’s largest battery maker, supplies cells to Tesla Inc. and will begin providing batteries for Honda Motor Co.’s electric vehicles in 2024. It recently opened a factory in Germany and is looking to establish manufacturing in North America.
Ford had no comment on Youngkin’s remarks. A spokesperson for CATL didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment sent outside of business hours in China.
Asked about a similar accusation from Youngkin on Jan. 18, Ford declined to directly respond and instead said in a statement: “Our talks with CATL continue – and we have nothing new to announce.”
Shares of Ford rose 1.6% as of 3:22 p.m. in New York.
Youngkin said he would be open to working with Ford on future opportunities, as long as they do not also involve CATL. He has expressed regrets about missing out on other major factory deals in recent months.
“This is not a zero-sum game and I would have loved to have Ford come to Virginia and build a battery plant, if they were not using it as a front for a company that’s controlled by the Chinese Communist Party,” he said.
Youngkin declined to comment on the status of the site and any specific candidates, citing confidentiality agreements.
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