SEOUL -- South Korea's SK Innovation beat its larger rival LG Chem to a multibillion dollar deal in 2018 to supply Volkswagen Group with electric vehicle batteries in the United States.
With great fanfare, SK broke ground in March on a $1.7 billion factory in Commerce, Georgia, about 200 km (120 miles) from VW's Chattanooga plant, which will be the automaker's electric vehicle hub in the U.S.
LG Chem had other ideas.
Stung by missing out on the VW deal to SK Innovation and the departure of 77 employees for its rival, LGC took SKI to court in the U.S. in April accusing it of misappropriating trade secrets.
Fast forward seven months and the two companies have hit each other with U.S. lawsuits for battery patent infringements in a dispute that threatens to disrupt the launches of electric vehicles by some of the world's biggest automakers.
U.S court filings reviewed by Reuters show the feuding suppliers are trying to stop each other from importing and selling EV batteries destined for the SUVs VW will build in Tennessee as well as General Motors's Bolt, Ford pickups, Jaguar's I-Pace, Audi's e-tron, and Kia's Niro.
At stake is the Korean companies' ability to supply automakers in the U.S with batteries just as the automakers are scrambling to lock in supplies with lucrative contracts ahead of an expected surge in demand, according to court filings by the two companies and several industry experts.