Will Taxpayer-Funded Battery Maker A123 Systems End Up in China?

by Greg Pollowitz

It could be. And Republicans are none to happy with that possibility. Via the National Legal and Policy Center:

The Chinese government, unsurprisingly, has approved a potential sale of stimulus-funded ($279 million-plus) A123 Systems to one of its own automobile parts manufacturers, should the Wanxiang Group’s bid be the highest this week for the bankrupt electric vehicle battery maker.

That was the easy part.

So far Republican Sens. Charles Grassley (Iowa) and John Thune (S.D.) have repeatedly raised questions and concerns about the possible transfer of A123’s business, jobs and technology from the U.S. – where taxpayers have thrown in approximately $132 million only to see many times that amount in losses since its 2009 initial public offering – to China. They’re no longer the only voices speaking out against the transaction.

Last week the Strategic Materials Advisory Council, a coalition of former U.S. Government and military leaders and industry experts, announced its opposition to a transfer of A123 to Wanxiang’s control. The group sent a letter to Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner that cited concerns about contracts the battery maker has with the Defense Department and the possible transfer of technology to a military rival.

The rest here.

For its part, the Obama administration has filed a brief with the bankruptcy court saying A123 cannot be sold without the government’s approval because of the taxpayer grant. What makes this strange is any purchase by the Chinese must be approved by Treasury’s CFIUS, the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, anyway. Is Team Obama worried CFIUS will approve the sale and is hoping to stop the transaction in another manner?

In the meantime, Fisker Automotive — another taxpayer-funded disaster investment — has idled production of its cars because of delays in delivery of batteries from A123.

Stay tuned as the auction is set for December 6.



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