Chinese cybersecurity concerns over Ford JV

Ford and Catl's beleaguered battery project could lose government support after house committees highlight ties to Chinese military firms

Chinese cybersecurity concerns over Ford JV
Ford-Catl's proposed Marshall, MI plant is under fresh criticism

Detroit OEM Ford's JV with Chinese battery leader Catl is under renewed attacks from US legislators which could end tax funded subsidies for its planned battery factory in Marshall, Michigan.

Lawmakers from the House Select Committee on the CCP and the House Energy and Commerce Committee say they have uncovered evidence that Ford plans to use technology and software from at least four Chinese companies that also supply the same services to the Chinese military, North Korean government and China’s Ministry of Public Security.

In letters written to the Biden administration which redact the names of the Chinese companies in question, the lawmakers ask for urgent investigation into Ford's plans for the battery facility and the classification of the four firms as foreign entities of concern (FEOCs). This would disqualify the JV from receiving any government money towards building out its battery supply chain under the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.

"The four troubling PRC companies will be intimately involved in the proposed U.S. battery facility's design, construction, and information technology (IT) processes," says a letter to Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo.

Three of the four companies are named on the Office of Foreign Assets Control's Chinese Military Industrial Complex list, which determines US sanctions towards PRC firms.

The letter to Raimondo asks the Department of Commerce to "investigate and urgently place the following companies on the Entity List to safeguard American interests, supply chains, and the billions of taxpayer dollars that the Catl-Ford facility will receive."

The letter states that one of the Chinese companies will prepare the concept design of the battery plant in Michigan "based on Chinese laws". The same company is a supplier to the Chinese People's Liberation Army, it notes.

The lawmakers also express dismay at another agreement whereby a second Chinese firm will provide integration platform as a service (iPaaS) tools and applications at the Michigan factory.

The same company that is supplying IT products and software to entities that support the North Korean government will have the capability to embed backdoors, spyware, and other forms of malware within Ford’s iPaaS infrastructure, which could compromise the confidentiality and integrity of Ford’s sensitive information," the lawmakers write.
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The Ford plant could have its entire security system compromised by this software before it even comes online, they say.

Two further agreements with PRC companies will provide Ford with unified authentication software, as well as a business process management software tool — sparking further concerns about security of Ford's computer systems at the facility.

In a letter to Ford CEO Jim Farley, the lawmakers have requested to meet with Ford to discuss the due diligence the automaker took before signing the JV.

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