Behind the Wheel with Phil Lebeau

A123 Charges Up on China Deal

For A123 investors, it's been a nice two-day run. The stock is surging today after a 5% gain on Wednesday, as the U.S. battery maker announces a joint venture in China with SAIC Motor Corp. It's the kind of deal that will position Massachusetts based A123 to profit as China moves toward rolling out electric cars in the years to come. A123 will own 49% of the company, while SAIC owns 51%. When I talked with CEO Dave Vieau told me this morning from Tokyo, Japan it was clear this is a man optimistic about the future of electric cars.

I have said many times, including yesterday, that we are still several years from seeing large numbers of electric cars out on the street. That doesn't change the fact there is a land rush happening in the auto industry among automakers and suppliers to be position themselves as the leader or leaders when we start to see more electric cars. That's where A123 comes in. The company, along with LG Chem, Johnson Controls , and other firms are all moving quickly to be the battery supplier for automakers around the world.

And when he looks around the world, Dave Vieau believes Europe is ahead of the U.S. and Asia when it comes to bringing electric cars to market. It's not a huge lead, but it is noteworthy. Here in the U.S., the Chevy Volt and the Nissan Leaf are coming out late next year. And then slowly we will see more electric vehicles roll into showrooms.

The race within the electric car race is among suppliers trying to get in on the model that will do for electric cars, what Prius did for hybrids. When that car comes along, and when sales soar, it will help establish the battery and component suppliers as the clear leaders in the electric car market.


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