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Autoline On Autoblog With John McElroy

At a time when car companies are putting more emphasis on the interior craftsmanship of their cars, several of the supplier companies which dominate the interiors business are running for the exits, or are getting ready to.

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Ever sit in a car with a black interior and wish you could change it to, say, a beige one to better suit your mood that day? Or one with a red interior that's just too garish for your tastes? Well Johnson Controls might have the answer.

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In 2010, automotive supplier Faurecia showed off a car seat that, via Bluetooth communication with a smartphone app, would adjust itself based on information the occupant had entered. It looks like that was too much work for a busy executive to do, because Automotive News has a story on how that seat has progressed, and it's now almost fully automatic.

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Johnson Controls executive Brian Kesseler isn't likely to get any holiday presents this year from Nissan chief Carlos Ghosn or Tesla Motors head Elon Musk, but lots of other folks might be happy with what he has to say about automakers' efforts to reach stricter fleetwide fuel-economy standards.

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Wanxiang Group has insisted A123 Systems will remain an American company operationally following intense scrutiny from US lawmakers. China's largest parts manufacturer purchased A123 Systems at auction after the company fell into insolvency, but the battery maker holds a number of defense contracts with the US government. Pin Ni, head of Wanxiang's US operations, told Reuters that A123 will not be folded into the group's lithium-ion battery unit and will instead remain an American company. The $

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Johnson Controls isn't taking the bankruptcy sale of A123 Systems to the Chinese company Wanxiang lying down. Wanxiang won the bankruptcy court sale for $256 million on December 11 and, today, Johnson Controls has filed an appeal against the sale because it "objects to delay in payment of break-up fee and expense reimbursement."

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Bankrupt lithium-ion battery maker A123 Systems may have gained a new owner, but will lose a lot of money in the pending sale to China-based Wanxiang Group, Reuters reports, citing an unidentified US Energy Department official.

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The Detroit News reports that China's Wanxiang Group Corporation will acquire almost all of bankrupt A123 Systems Inc. for $256 million. The deal includes all of the American battery manufacturer's grid and commercial business assets as well as the company's facilities in Michigan, Massachusetts and Missouri. Meanwhile, Woodridge, Illinois-based Navitas Systems will purchase all of A123 Systems' government contracts for $2.25 million.

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Let the bidding begin. In a few weeks, of course.

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Think of it as a refi going to the highest bidder.

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Something interesting happened after A123 Systems filed for bankruptcy last week: the plug-in vehicle industry circled the wagons. AutoblogGreen received press releases and statements from a variety of electric vehicle (EV) players that, when taken as a whole, seem to indicate this particular bankruptcy filing hit a little closer to home than when, say, Think exited stage right. The main message would make Douglas Adams proud: Don't panic. Fisker, for example, gets all of its batteries from A123

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For companies such as Johnson Controls, Inc., there are opportunities to be had supplying advanced batteries for hybrids and electric vehicles. But where do all those advanced lithium batteries – and the older ones being pulled out today's hybrids – end up? Regulators, environmentalists and media want to know. With that in mind, opening a new battery recycling facility can be a smart move.

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If you're a blue-blooded American capitalist, there's nothing better than leading your company to the top of the Fortune 500 – except for making billions of dollars in profits, that is. But thankfully those two objectives tend to go hand-in-hand, as proven by these two men.

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Shanghai Johnson Controls International Battery has been in the spotlight after at least ten children were reportedly hospitalized in Shanghai's Kangqiao Industrial Zone due to ultra-high levels of lead in their blood.

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Johnson Controls announced Wednesday that it's investing $100 million to construct a stop-start automotive battery factory in China. The facility will supply global and local automakers in Asia and is expected to gear up for production in early 2013. Kim Metcalf-Kupres, vice president strategy, sales and marketing at Johnson Controls Power Solutions says China, "will continue to be the fastest growing market for automobiles through the end of this decade."

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Last week, Johnson Controls and Saft announced that they have agreed to dissolve their joint lithium-ion motive battery joint venture that they formed back 2006. The parties' agreement to terminate their tie up will put an end to legal proceedings between the two firms.

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Yesterday, President Obama visited the Johnson Controls advanced battery manufacturing plant in Holland, MI (pictured) and talked about how cleaner cars will add jobs to the American economy. The White House blog chimed in, saying that there is a direct connection between the new fuel efficiency standards for both cars/light trucks and heavy trucks and increased jobs. This connection can be summed up in one word: stability.

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U.S. automotive supplier Johnson Controls says that, over the next two years, it will nearly triple its investment in two German facilities that manufacture batteries for vehicles equipped with stop-start technology. Alex Molinaroli, head of the Johnson Controls' automotive battery division, told Reuters that, "We will invest 275 million euros ($389 million U.S. at the current exchange rate) in our battery plants in Hanover and Zwickau."

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On Wednesday, Johnson Controls (JC) took legal action in the Delaware Chancery Court to dissolve the Johnson Controls-Saft joint venture. Formed back in 2006, JC's joint venture with Saft focuses solely on developing and manufacturing lithium-ion motive battery solutions.

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