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Ford delays production of EV batteries at second Kentucky plant

Construction site with metal building framing and heavy machinery
Ryan Van Velzer
Ford and BlueOvalSK broke ground on the $5.7 billion battery park near Elizabethtown on Dec. 5, 2022.

Ford Motor Company is postponing the start of production at the second of two plants at the upcoming BlueOval SK Battery Park. The site will build batteries for Ford and Lincoln electric vehicles in Hardin County.

Ford announced the delay in its third-quarter earnings call on Thursday. The company did not give a new timeline for the second plant, which was planned to begin production in 2026.

The first plant’s operations are still on track to begin in 2025, and construction on the site broke ground late last year.

John Lawler, Ford’s chief financial officer, said during Thursday’s call that the delay was part of a company strategy of “slowing down several investments” in electric vehicles. In total, Ford is postponing $12 billion in electric vehicle investments.

Ursula Madden, BlueOval SK’s external affairs director, said in a statement that the decision is a response to consumer interest.

“Demand for electric vehicles continues to increase in the U.S. but not at levels anticipated,” Madden said.

In 2021, Ford announced the $5.8 billion investment in Kentucky as a joint venture with SK On, a South Korean electric battery manufacturer.

Mallory Bell, a BlueOval SK spokesperson, said Friday the 1,500-acre project is expected to create about 5,000 jobs, with half at each plant.

She added that construction is continuing on the second plant.

Ford and SK On are also building an electric vehicle and battery complex in Tennessee called BlueOval City. No one on the Thursday earnings call indicated any change to the plans for this development.

Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear reiterated Ford’s commitment to the project on Friday in a video addressing the plant postponement.

“Don’t let the politics cloud the facts. Economic development is not partisan. This is our game-changing investment,” said Beshear, who has called it the largest economic development project in Kentucky history.

Beshear, a Democrat, is less than two weeks away from an Election Day contest with Republican Attorney General Daniel Cameron.

Electric battery plants like BlueOval SK have been a point of concern for the United Auto Workers union, which wants to preserve jobs as American automakers shift to electric vehicle production.

The UAW reached a tentative contract agreement with Ford this week, though details about whether it addresses electric vehicles are not yet available.

WDRB reported Thursday that the contract deal also includes a commitment by Ford to produce a new electric vehicle at the company’s Louisville Assembly Plant starting in 2026.

More than 3,000 employees work at the plant, which currently produces Ford Escapes and Lincoln Corsairs. There are about 12,000 total Ford employees in Louisville.

Ford spokesperson Dan Barbossa declined to confirm plans for the Louisville Assembly Plant to make electric vehicles.

“The Ford Escape and Lincoln Corsair remain important parts of our lineup and we are not going to comment on future product speculation,” Barbossa said in a statement.

A UAW spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the contract agreement’s details.

Jacob is LPM's Business and Development Reporter. Email Jacob at jmunoz@lpm.org.

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