Lightning Strikes: Trade Secrets Could Hamper Fire Investigation

Matthew Guy
by Matthew Guy

Alert readers may recall a series of hiccups that have befallen the all-electric Ford F-150 Lightning so far this year, including a battery fire in a truck that was parked in a holding pen near company facilities. Ford is obviously working feverishly to fix any problems. One roadblock on the road to repair might involve words this author rarely gets to type: Industrial espionage.

That’s an act, of course, which involves companies stealing trade secrets from each other in order to use them for their own benefit (and profit). While it sounds like something from a Bond flick, this type of spying is a big concern for some outfits – especially ones sitting on the bleeding edge of technology. If a particular supplier holds a bunch of secrets for a critical part without which a vehicle cannot be built, it could be susceptible to espionage as well. What does all this have to do with the Lightning? According to rumblings in certain corners of the internet (which should always be taken with hefty grains of salt) Ford and one of its battery partners, called SK On of Korea, are at loggerheads over how much access Dearborn should have to SK On’s production line while trying to find and fix the issue which led to the fire. There are mutterings suggesting those holding the reins (and security keys) at SK On don’t want Ford pawing too much through their plant lest they learn too much and decide to make batteries on their own – hence the rumors about concerns over industrial espionage.

Here's another twist: Ford and SK have already broken ground on an EV battery factory in Kentucky, one with a scheduled completion date of 2024. The combined effort is overseen by an outfit called BlueOval SK and the Kentucky plant is nicknamed BOSK1. There are plans for a BOSK2 in Tennessee and a BOSK3 somewhere else in the country.

In other words, these two companies are already deeply in bed with each other but may be acting as if they don’t trust each other yet with a joint bank account. Complicating this issue is a report suggesting the tiff is strong enough that ‘ didn]key Ford executives’ didn’t attend the aforementioned groundbreaking for BOSK1. Present were SK Group Executive Vice Chairman Chey Jae-won, SK On President Jee Dong-seob, BlueOval SK CEO David Hahm, and Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear. Perhaps suits at Ford had the day off.

[image: Ford]

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Matthew Guy
Matthew Guy

Matthew buys, sells, fixes, & races cars. As a human index of auto & auction knowledge, he is fond of making money and offering loud opinions.

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3 of 12 comments
  • Master Baiter Master Baiter on Feb 23, 2023

    When a huge company buys a ton of components from another huge company, it's part partnership, part adversarial. When a quality problem with the component comes up, it invariably turns into a urinating contest. No big surprise here.

    • Lou_BC Lou_BC on Feb 23, 2023

      @Master Baiter. Very true. Both sides want to blame the other and protect their turf. Ford and Navistar went adversarial with the 6.0 powerstroke.

  • SPPPP SPPPP on Feb 24, 2023

    Didn't Jim Farley go out 3 months ago and tell the world that Ford plans to take EV component manufacture in-house as much as possible? Ford is also known for beating up their suppliers on price. Can anyone blame SK for being a little cautious here?

  • MaintenanceCosts It's not really much of a thought in the buying process. I would think twice about a vehicle assembled in China but other than that I really don't care. Looking at my own history, I've bought six new cars in my lifetime (I don't think choice of used cars says anything at all). I think the most patriotic of them were mostly Japanese brands. (1) Acura, assembled in Japan (2) Honda, assembled in U.S. (3) Pontiac, assembled in Australia (4) Subaru, assembled in U.S. (5) Ford, assembled in U.S. (6) Chevrolet, assembled in Korea
  • ToolGuy News Flash: Canada isn't part of the U.S.
  • Dave M. My Maverick hybrid is my first domestic label ever. It was assembled in Mexico with US components. My Nissan and Subaru were made here, my Toyota, Isuzu and other Nissan had J VINs.
  • ToolGuy "and leaves auto dealers feeling troubled" ...well this is terrible. Won't someone think of the privileged swindlers??
  • ToolGuy "Selling as I got a new car and don't need an extra." ...Well that depends on what new car you chose, doesn't it? 😉