Trade Secret ruling could impact Volkswagen Chattanooga plant

ATLANTA, Georgia (WDEF) – Georgia Governor Brian Kemp is calling on President Biden to get involved in a trade ruling against a company that will build electric batteries for Volkswagen’s new SUV in Chattanooga.

The dispute is between two Korean battery companies.

SK Innovation is building one of the largest plants that an international company has built in Georgia.

The SK Battery plant in Commerce, Georgia promises 2,600 workers. They just finished the first of two phases at the plant.

The plant would build electric vehicle batteries for Ford and for the Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga.

But all of that has been called into question now by a ruling this week by the U.S. International Trade Commission.

The ITC ruled that SK Innovation stole intellectual property from South Korean rival LG Energy Solution.

The punishment is that SK will be banned from either importing, making or selling batteries in the U.S for ten years.  They would be allowed to bring in parts and assemble them at the Commerce plant to fulfill their Volkswagen contract, but only for 4 years.

When Georgia officials gathered in Commerce to announce the construction in late 2018, they hoped it would put Georgia at the head of electric battery technology in the Southeast. And other South Korean companies have begun building feeder plants in the region for SK Batteries.

But this ruling puts all of that in jeopardy.

So Gov. Kemp is asking the Biden administration to review the case and override the ruling.  He has 60 days to do so.

The two companies could also work out a compromise, and both have shown a willingness to do so.

Even the President of South Korea has called the feud embarrassing, since the electric battery industry is a major player in the Korean economy.

But if the ruling stands, Volkswagen will be scrambling to find another electric battery supplier for the new SUV in Chattanooga.  Of course, Volkswagen is committed to converting all their vehicles to electric power.

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