Two former Ford executives who ran the hybrid vehicle program now head rival battery companies and are battling for business.
From 1998 to 2003, Prabhakar Patil led the team that began work on the Ford Escape Hybrid. It was tough getting suppliers on different continents to work together, and the program was behind schedule when Mary Ann Wright took over and got the vehicle launched in late 2004.
Wright left Ford in 2005 for Collins & Aikman. Now she heads hybrid operations for Johnson Controls and runs the its battery joint venture with Saft, of France. Patil resurfaced in 2005 at Compact Power, a unit of South Korea's LG Chem.
Last month, Patil's company scored a coup by winning the contract to provide lithium ion batteries for the Chevrolet Volt. Last week, Wright's company won a big contract from Ford to make battery packs for plug-in hybrids starting in 2012. Johnson Controls-Saft has contracts with Mercedes-Benz, BMW, and two Chinese automakers.
Look for electrifying news from both battery makers soon. It's not official, but Patil's company is the likely choice to provide batteries for Hyundai's upcoming hybrid, and Wright's company probably will sell batteries to Peugeot and perhaps other European automakers.