A123 Systems Is Back In The Saddle Again

Actually, the advanced battery company that was originated in Massachusetts and acquired this year after failure and a politicized tussle over who would gain control is emphasizing its continuity, and yesterday A123 Systems LLC announced bright forward-looking statements.

Following its purchase in January by the Wanxiang Group, the company has named members to its Livonia, Mich. executive team, and noted its financial strength as a powerhouse in China and as America’s largest employer in the lithium-ion battery business.

It also reiterated an intensified push toward “micro hybrid” battery system development as it continues with high-voltage EV and hybrid batteries and more.

Micro hybrids use low-voltage 12- and 48-volt batteries to handle electrical subsystems in mildly fuel efficient cars. Some observers take exception to the term “mild hybrid,” such as Johnson Controls is also emphasizing, and others have said they are low hanging fruit to meet regulations.

For its part, A123 Systems LLC said its Nanophosphate EXT chemistry is just the ticket for these applications, as it mentioned also a who’s-who list of clients, including GM which uses A123 batteries for its Chevy Spark EV.

A123 will carry on with existing contracts, it said in a statement, but will “increasingly” delve into the micro hybrid space.

Other customers for A123’s transportation unit include BAE Systems, BMW, Daimler, and SAIC, among others, and A123 intimated it has continued to serve global clients since 2010.

That may be so, but Wanxiang first had to overcome hoops and hurdles including approval by the federal government to be where it is now.

At the end of January this year, Chinese-owned Wanxiang America Corporation was permitted to buy what some warned was sensitive intellectual property. This came after a signing off by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) on Wanxiang’s acquisition of the majority of the non-government business assets of A123 Systems, Inc.

Yesterday, the Wanxiang Group said it “is one of China’s largest enterprises which is not state-owned [by the Chinese government] with approximately $22 billion in annual sales.”

And, it said, A123 Systems LLC is poised to grow.

“The operational scale and financial strength of Wanxiang provide the stability necessary for A123 to thrive during the on-going industry consolidation,” A123 Systems LLC said.

To run the U.S. business, yesterday A123 Systems named Jason Forcier as CEO and board member.

Forcier in his role as CEO will have oversight for A123’s battery cell and transportation related sales, as well as global product development and manufacturing. He also will work with fellow board members Pin Ni and Tom Corcoran overseeing A123 Systems LLC.

A123 Systems LLC is further comprised of three business units.

The company affirmed also members of its executive leadership, and named Ed Kopkowski president of the A123 Systems brand. As president of A123 Venture Technologies, the company appointed Mujeeb Ijaz, The board will supervise A123 Energy Solutions, which is focused on grid energy storage and commercial applications, and Bud Collins continues as president of A123 Energy Solutions.

A123 Energy Solutions offers grid-scale energy storage and the company says it has the most lithium-ion battery power on grids worldwide.

“Combining the Wanxiang EV battery business with the global footprint of A123 offers great potential to enhance our global competitiveness,” said Forcier. “Both organizations bring key skill sets that are critical to our collective success and together we are well prepared for growth in our target markets.”

Altogether, this has led to A123 Systems LLC becoming America’s largest employer in the business, it said.

“When considering the collective strength of the three business units, A123 employs more people in the development and production of lithium ion batteries in the U.S. than any other company,” said A123 Systems LLC. “Additionally, the lithium-ion battery activities Wanxiang operated before its acquisition of A123 contribute competitive strength, particularly in China. During the next year, these Wanxiang resources will be integrated under A123’s leadership and aligned with the substantial operations A123 has had in China for nearly 10 years.”