Sen. Rubio Seeks Review of Ford EV Battery Deal in Marshall

U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) sent a letter to Secretary of the Treasury Janet Yellen, Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm, and Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg calling for an immediate Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) review of the licensing agreement between Ford Motor Co. in Dearborn and China’s Contemporary Amperex Technology Co. Ltd. (CATL).
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Florida Sen. Marco Rubio is asking questions about Ford’s plans to build a battery plant in Marshall using Chinese technology. // Courtesy of Sen. Marco Rubio
Florida Sen. Marco Rubio is asking questions about Ford’s plans to build a battery plant in Marshall using Chinese technology. // Courtesy of Sen. Marco Rubio

U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) sent a letter to Secretary of the Treasury Janet Yellen, Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm, and Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg calling for an immediate Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) review of the licensing agreement between Ford Motor Co. in Dearborn and China’s Contemporary Amperex Technology Co. Ltd. (CATL).

The automaker announced Monday that it had entered into an agreement with CATL to produce electric vehicle batteries in Marshall via a subsidiary wholly owned by Ford. CFIUS is a U.S. Treasury-led interagency panel that reviews proposed transactions to ensure they do not endanger national security.

In the letter, Rubio requested a commitment from the Biden Administration not to support Chinese Communist Party efforts by providing tax credits or other funding for the deal. The Florida legislator also requested answers to a series of questions within 30 days.

“I am alarmed at Ford’s plan to establish a large, Michigan-based factory, structured as a wholly owned subsidiary that licenses its technology from CATL,” Rubio wrote. “As such, I write to request a Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) review of the licensing agreement, as well as demand that no federal funds — especially monies or tax credits granted via the Inflation Reduction Act (P.L. 117-169) — go to enrich PRC (Peoples Republic of China) national champion CATL, or any other Beijing-supported company, directly or indirectly.”

In a statement requested by DBusiness, Ford said: “Ford will wholly own and control the new battery facility, which will initially create 2,500 good U.S. jobs, with no foreign investment. CATL won’t get any U.S. tax dollars; their involvement is simply as a source of technology and expertise that will be licensed to us.”

Republican Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin reportedly turned down the opportunity to host the Ford battery operation due to its ties to the Chinese battery company.

The deal will reportedly leave ownership of the plant and land on which it is constructed in Ford’s hands, Rubio summarized in his letter, while CATL will own and supply critical technology involved, including lithium iron phosphate cathodes, via a licensing agreement.

“The exact structure of this arrangement has yet to be reported, but policymakers should be clear-eyed about one takeaway: if Chinese companies like CATL are able to exploit both Chinese and United States incentives for battery and EV technology through clever corporate arrangements, then there is no use in investing federal funds toward industrial development in the first place,” Rubio wrote. “Taxpayer dollars should never be used to support PRC champions.”

The questions to which Rubio has asked for answers within a month are:

  • Will the Biden Administration commit not to award any such monies or credits?
  • To what degree has CATL relied on United States research and development in its own battery production?
  • To what degree has it acquired United States research and development through illicit means?
  • Does CATL provide equipment, technology, or other services to the People’s Liberation Army, the People’s Armed Police, or any other security body controlled by the CCP?
  • Has CATL acquired any assets through a transaction that is reviewable under the CFIUS?
  • Has CATL ever been implicated in forced labor or child labor?
  • To what degree will CATL have equity in, ownership over, or other forms of control over Ford’s planned subsidiary and the factory?

Ford said Monday that it is investing $3.5 billion to build the country’s first automaker-backed lithium iron (ferro) phosphate (LFP) battery plant in Marshall, east of Battle Creek. When production begins in 2026 at what the company will call BlueOval Battery Park Michigan, it will employ 2,500 people and offer a second electric vehicle battery chemistry to Ford customers.