Washington — A123 Systems LLC said Wednesday it had named a new chief executive officer, as it shifts focus from supplying large batteries for electric vehicles to smaller batteries intended for cars with start-stop technology and mechanisms that convert braking energy to electricity.
Chinese-owned A123 Systems said Wednesday that Jason Forcier has been appointed CEO as well as a member of its board of directors. Forcier, who previously headed A123’s automotive operations, said in a Detroit News interview in January that automakers are focusing on “micro-hybrids” and will launch a micro-hybrid project for a major German automaker.
“Combining the Wanxiang EV battery business with the global footprint of A123 offers great potential to enhance our global competitiveness,” Forcier said in a statement Wednesday. “Both organizations bring key skill sets that are critical to our collective success and together we are well prepared for growth in our target markets.”
The Obama administration in January approved the sale of the bankrupt battery company to Wanxiang Group Corp. The company’s U.S. subsidiary, Chicago-based Wanxiang America, won an OK to complete its $256.6 million acquisition of substantially all of the nongovernment business assets of A123 Systems Inc., which include its grid and commercial business assets and its U.S. facilities in Michigan, Massachusetts and Missouri. Navitas Systems, a Woodridge, Ill.-based company, has agreed to buy A123’s Ann Arbor-based government business, including all U.S. military contracts, for $2.25 million.
A123’s transportation business continues to serve customers including BAE Systems, BMW AG, Daimler AG, General Motors Co. and SAIC, among others. The production facilities in Michigan continue to produce the majority of A123’s transportation output and launched the Chevy Spark EV battery system for General Motors earlier this year. Going forward, the transportation unit is increasingly focused on low-voltage (12- and 48-volt) hybrids. .
A123’s battery research and development organization has continued to develop and commercialize battery technology. The unit launched a cooperative development model under the name A123 Venture Technologies earlier this year.
As CEO, Forcier will oversee all battery cell and transportation related sales, product development and manufacturing activities globally, the company said.
The transportation business retains the A123 Systems brand and named Ed Kopkowski president of the group. Mujeeb Ijaz has been appointed president of A123 Venture Technologies, which operates the company’s substantial R&D capabilities for the benefit of A123 and strategically complementary third parties. The board also oversees A123 Energy Solutions, which is the business unit focused on grid energy storage and commercial applications.
The executive team is headquartered in A123’s Livonia facility which has produced battery systems since 2010.
A123 said earlier this year it has 625 employees at its Romulus and Livonia plants and an Ann Arbor office, along with 348 temporary workers in the state.
The Waltham, Mass., startup filed for bankruptcy in October; in December, Wanxiang won a bankruptcy court auction to acquire most of A123.
The Energy Department, which approved $249 million in grants to A123 in 2009, said it worked during the company’s bankruptcy to keep jobs in Michigan. The grants were to build battery plants in Romulus and Livonia; the company has spent only $132 million.
A123 also received $125 million in tax credits and funding from the state. The remaining funds will not go to A123 in the wake of the sale, the government said last year.
Wanxiang wants to continue to grow the business and will operate A123 as a wholly owned, stand-alone company. Forcier said in January that Wanxiang has said publicly and privately that the company is committed to Michigan.
President Barack Obama hailed A123 and invited the company’s CEO to the Rose Garden in April 2010. “This is what happens when we place our bets on American workers and American businesses,” Obama said.
A123 had vowed to create 3,000 jobs by the end of 2012, but has created 1,300.
The Wanxiang Group is one of China’s largest enterprises which is not state-owned with approximately $22 billion in annual sales.