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JCI Wants to Divorce Partner

Different directions on battery-car technology.

by on May.19, 2011

JCI and Saft provide battery car technology to makers including Mercedes-Benz, which launched the S400 Blue Hybrid.

Johnson Controls Inc., a leading vendor in electric car technology, is suing to break up its joint venture with Saft, a French battery maker.

“Johnson Controls and Saft have a fundamental disagreement about the future direction and appropriate scope of the joint venture,” said Alex Molinaroli, president of Johnson Controls Power Solutions.

Though perhaps best known for interiors and other conventional automotive components and systems, JCI has aggressively moved into the battery car space, working with makers like Ford on hybrids and even more advanced systems.  Saft has also pushed into what some anticipate to be a critical and fast-expanding automotive niche.

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“The industry is evolving rapidly and the investments needed to achieve market leadership require us to do more than the joint venture has done or can do,” Molinaroli explained, after JCI filed a lawsuit in the Delaware Chancery Court to dissolve the Johnson Controls-Saft joint venture.

The joint venture was formed in 2006 to develop and manufacture lithium-ion automotive battery solutions and lined up major customers, including Mercedes-Benz.

The lawsuit does not affect Johnson Controls-Saft’s current contracts, production orders or program launches, Molinaroli stressed.

Johnson Controls believes that as vehicle powertrain technologies continue to evolve and new markets emerge for advanced batteries, the company must have access to multiple alternative technologies and be able to flexibly participate more broadly across the energy storage space, Molinaroli said.

“This action reaffirms our strategic commitment to the advanced battery industry,” said Molinaroli.

“We are confident we will continue to provide our customers with quality products that meet and exceed their needs. Our commitment to our customers and this market is not changed. All of this activity reflects our long-term commitment to be a leader in the advanced battery space,” said Molinaroli.

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