Ford delays operations on second EV battery plant in Hardin County

Ford Motor Co. and partner SK On plan to delay the start of operations on the second of two planned massive electric vehicle battery plants in Hardin County, according to reports from a company earnings call.

The two plants represent the largest planned economic development project in state history.

Louisville television station WDRB first reported the news Thursday evening.

BlueOval SK, Ford’s joint venture with South Korean partner SK On, posted to social media Thursday reaffirming that the first electric vehicle battery plant is on schedule to start producing batteries in 2025. The start date for production is what is in limbo, according to spokespeople for the office of Gov. Andy Beshear and Ford.

A Beshear spokesperson emphasized that construction for both plants is “on schedule and unchanged.”

“All this means is that BlueOval SK is evaluating its operations schedule with the second plant, but remains fully committed to its future,” Beshear spokesperson Crystal Staley wrote in a statement Thursday evening.

Ford spokesperson T.R. Reid confirmed to the Herald-Leader that while Ford and SK On had initially scheduled to start production at the second plant in 2026, they are now undecided on when production there will begin.

Construction on the site has been underway for some time already, and the project was announced more than two years ago. In Michigan, a General Motors electric vehicle plant has similarly been delayed for a year.

Also in Michigan, another Ford electric vehicle plant was halted in light of strikes by the United Auto Workers, which just reached a tentative deal with management to end its strike this week.

According to industry reports, some in the electric vehicle space are worried about demand not meeting initial expectations and high interest rates hampering production as companies head into 2024.

Ford missed Wall Street’s third-quarter earnings expectations Thursday following the weeks-long labor strike that has reportedly cost the company around $1.3 billion. Shares of the automaker recently dropped by 4%, according to CNBC.

In all, the project in Hardin County — located in Glendale, just south of Elizabethtown — represents an investment of $5.8 billion, and the plants are expected to employ around 2,500 people each.

Beshear, a first-term Democratic governor seeking re-election, has touted the investment throughout his re-election campaign this year.

Some Republicans supporting Beshear’s challenger, Attorney General Daniel Cameron, jeered Beshear following Thursday afternoon’s news of the delay.

Cameron campaign spokesperson Sean Southard posted to X, formerly Twitter, that Kentucky’s economy was a “dumpster fire” under Beshear. Scott Jennings, a political commentator and conservative public relations executive who has consulted Cameron, posted that the “cornerstone of (Beshear’s) reelection argument (was) just put on hold.”

Cameron himself released a statement criticizing Beshear in light of the news.

“Another Andy Beshear promise is unraveling before our eyes,” Cameron said.

“We aren’t becoming the battery capital of the world. We are becoming the failed promises capital of the world. Andy can’t deliver the jobs he’s promised. The economy is in shambles. So what are we left with? Just another Biden Democrat.”