South Korea’s SK Innovation says considering EV battery plant in U.S.

SEOUL (Reuters) – South Korea’s SK Innovation said on Monday it is considering building an electric vehicle battery plant in the United States as part of its effort to secure customers in one of the world’s biggest electric vehicle (EV) markets.

The logo of SK Innovation is seen in front of its headquarters in Seoul, South Korea, February 3, 2017. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji/Files

The move came after U.S. President Donald Trump on May 23 ordered a ‘Section 232’ national security investigation into whether to impose a 25 percent tariff on vehicle and auto parts imported from other countries.

SK Innovation currently has Daimler and Hyundai Motor as its top consumers, but does not have U.S. clients.

“We are considering building a battery plant in southern part of the U.S. and at the moment two to three states are on the list,” a spokeswoman for SK Innovation said, adding the timeframe for the plant and other details have not been decided.

“U.S. expansion aims to supply products to U.S. automakers. We can also expect tariff benefits, although this is not the major reason for the expansion,” another company official told Reuters.

SK Innovation’s cross-town rival, LG Chem, has a U.S. factory, which supplies to General Motors.

In August, SK Innovation, which owns South Korea’s top refiner SK Energy and part of South Korea’s No.3 conglomerate, announced its plan to build an electric vehicle battery factory in China by 2019, under a joint venture with BAIC Motor and Beijing Electronics. It is also building a battery plant in Hungary.

Reporting by Haejin Choi and Hyunjoo Jin; Editing by Sunil Nair