U.S. wary of Chinese bidder for bankrupt battery maker

Green grantee also is defense contractor

  • **FILE** U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu (second from right) listens as Jason Forcier (right), vice president and general manager of A123 Systems, shows off a battery at their plant in Romulus, Mich., on July 18, 2011. Standing at left is A123 President and CEO David Vieau and Rep. John Dingell, Michigan Democrat. (Associated Press)**FILE** U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu (second from right) listens as Jason Forcier (right), vice president and general manager of A123 Systems, shows off a battery at their plant in Romulus, Mich., on July 18, 2011. Standing at left is A123 President and CEO David Vieau and Rep. John Dingell, Michigan Democrat. (Associated Press)
  • **FILE** A123 Systems President and CEO David Vieau addresses the media July 18, 2011, in Romulus, Mich. (Associated Press)**FILE** A123 Systems President and CEO David Vieau addresses the media July 18, 2011, in Romulus, Mich. (Associated Press)
  • **FILE** President Bush (center) listens to Dave Vieau (right), president and CEO of A123 Systems, as he is shown a Toyota Prius plug-in hybrid car utilizing a lithium power battery during a demonstration of alternative fuel automobiles on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington on Feb. 23, 2007. At left is Energy Secretary Sam Bodman. (Associated Press)**FILE** President Bush (center) listens to Dave Vieau (right), president and CEO of A123 Systems, as he is shown a Toyota Prius plug-in hybrid car utilizing a lithium power battery during a demonstration of alternative fuel automobiles on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington on Feb. 23, 2007. At left is Energy Secretary Sam Bodman. (Associated Press)
  • ** FILE ** An A123 Systems Inc. logo is shown in Livonia, Mich., in 2009. (Associated Press)** FILE ** An A123 Systems Inc. logo is shown in Livonia, Mich., in 2009. (Associated Press)
  • **FILE** A123 Systems Inc. high power Nanophospate Lithium Ion Cell for Hybrid Electric Vehicles batteries are shown Aug. 6, 2009 in Livonia, Mich. (Associated Press)**FILE** A123 Systems Inc. high power Nanophospate Lithium Ion Cell for Hybrid Electric Vehicles batteries are shown Aug. 6, 2009 in Livonia, Mich. (Associated Press)
  • **FILE** President Obama, accompanied by business people, speaks in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington on April 30, 2010. (Associated Press)**FILE** President Obama, accompanied by business people, speaks in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington on April 30, 2010. (Associated Press)

The developments reflect the company’s fast fall from prominence. In 2010, the company’s president, David Vieau, predicted “thousands of jobs” in the greater Detroit area.

The Washington Times reported in October, however, that federal job-tracking figures show that just a few hundred jobs were created before A123 joined a growing list of energy companies that received lots of federal money only to end up in bankruptcy.

According to federal records, slightly more than 400 jobs were created, though Energy Department officials said the government job-tracking data didn’t include many other positions that were created.

In the wake of the company’s bankruptcy this year, Mr. Thune and Mr. Grassley raised questions in a letter to the Energy Department about whether federal officials knew the company was in trouble.

A123 has been struggling for some time,” they wrote. “Was the company struggling when the Energy Department decided to award it a federal grant?”

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