Losing its spark – work stops on CATL-Ford battery plant

Ford's plans for collaboration with CATL on a battery manufacturing facility in Michigan have run into trouble.

Photo by Kuang Da

Photo by Kuang Da

By GAO Jing


The joint venture between CATL and Ford is in the throes of yet another holdup. In February, Ford told the world that with the help of CATL, the world's biggest battery maker, it would build a battery plant in Michigan.

Concerns on both sides

Creating a minimum of 2,500 jobs, the Michigan plant was scheduled to commence operations in 2026, with a production capacity of 35 GWh. That's enough batteries for 400,000 EVs. CATL would provide tech and oversee the operation, while Ford retained ownership.

However, in July, Ford President, Jim Farley, was called to Capitol Hill to provide detailed information about the deal. US politicians on both sides of the House are concerned about dependency on Chinese technology.

Then, at the beginning of last week, members of the United Auto Workers (UAW) union went on strike. And on Monday, Ford stopped construction work on the US$3.5 billion (25 billion yuan) plant. It’s not clear whether this is a temporary pause or if the project is at an end.

'A number of considerations'

“We’re pausing work and limiting spending on construction on the Marshall project until we’re confident about our ability to competitively operate the plant,” a Ford spokesperson said in an email. “There are a number of considerations. We haven’t been specific about what they are, nor made any final decision about the planned investment there.”

Speculation suggests that the move is a response to the strike, which has lasted for more than ten days.

Shawn Fain, the head of UAW, criticized Ford's suspension of work on the plant, calling the action "regrettable" and describing it as a blatant threat.

What the workers want

The union wants a 40-percent wage increase, along with other benefits such as an improved pension scheme and reduced working hours. Last Friday, more workers from General Motors and Stellantis joined the strike, while Ford remains less affected, thanks to progress in their negotiations.

The  "Detroit Three"  argue that they cannot afford increased labor costs due to the electrification of the industry.