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Why was Tesla NOT invited to White House electric car summit?


Joe Biden on Thursday raised eyebrows by failing to invite the world’s largest manufacturer of electric vehicles to his EV summit, after appearing to bow to union pressure.

Biden invited to the White House the heads of General Motors, Ford and Stellantis – the Dutch-owned firm which makes Chrysler, Dodge and Jeep brands.

The three firms are the three largest employers of members of the United Auto Workers union, which in April 2020 endorsed Biden, bringing the support of 400,000 workers.

Tesla, whose Model 3, X and S cars alone make up almost 60 per cent of the U.S. electric car market, according to government data, does not have a unionized work force.

Elon Musk, pictured in September 2020 visiting the site of a new Tesla factory near Berlin, Germany. The Tesla CEO was not invited to Biden's electric car summit on Thursday

Elon Musk, pictured in September 2020 visiting the site of a new Tesla factory near Berlin, Germany. The Tesla CEO was not invited to Biden’s electric car summit on Thursday

Biden has been championing electric cars since he took office as part of his bid to dramatically reduce carbon emissions

Biden has been championing electric cars since he took office as part of his bid to dramatically reduce carbon emissions

'You don¿t hear a thing,' Biden said after taking a test drive of a Jeep hybrid vehicle

‘You don’t hear a thing,’ Biden said after taking a test drive of a Jeep hybrid vehicle

The top electric vehicle made by the Big Three, GM’s Chevy Bolt, only accounted for five per cent of EV sales in 2019.

Elon Musk, the founder of Tesla, tweeted that his exclusion from the meeting was ‘seems odd’.

When someone tweeted a meme of Musk outside the White House, holding up a sign reading: ‘Hi. I make lots of EVs in the US’, Musk responded with a laughing emoji. 

Teslas sold in the United States are made at its California plant, and are far more domestically sourced for parts than GM’s Chevy Bolt. The Bolt gets about three-quarters of its components, including the expensive batteries, from South Korea. 

GM is building U.S. battery factories with partners that will increase its domestic content in the future, yet Tesla already gets 50-55 per cent of their components from U.S. factories.

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One man tweeted: ‘Maybe if @elonmusk moved Tesla manufacturing to Mexico like Ford did for the Mach-E they would have a seat at the table? 

‘Apparently good paying American jobs, making 100% Electric vehicles isn’t enough to be shown as an example of how other manufacturers should behave?’

Musk replied: ‘Irony indeed.’

Another Tesla fan tweeted: ‘Unions exist because of previous discriminatory and unfair labor practices. 

‘This is why $TSLA doesn’t need a union. From Day 1, Tesla has treated their employees fair, compensating them for their hard work. Legacy Auto is already dead, inside & out.’

Musk agreed, replying: ‘Reality is total opposite of what detractors say! Biggest challenge is recruiting enough people to build cars. SF Bay Area essentially has negative unemployment, so people at our factory have several other job offers. 

‘If they weren’t treated well, they would leave immediately!’ 

Tesla's factory in Fremont, California, uses 50-55 per cent of car parts made in the U.S.

Tesla’s factory in Fremont, California, uses 50-55 per cent of car parts made in the U.S.

Among Biden’s proposals announced on Thursday are incentives for electric car customers, to reduce the price. But the incentives would only be available for cars produced by unionized work forces, not Tesla’s.

Biden launched his third bid for the White House in April 2019 from a Teamsters’ hall in Pittsburgh.

‘I make no apologies. I am a union man. Period,’ he said.

Labor organizations contributed $27.5 million to his campaign and other groups that supported him. His opponent, Donald Trump, took in less than $360,000 from those with labor ties. 

Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, was asked on Thursday if Biden deliberately excluded Tesla because their workforce is not unionized. 

‘I’ll let you draw your own conclusions,’ she replied.

She said: ‘Well, we of course welcome the efforts of automakers who recognize the potential of an electric vehicle future and support efforts that will help reach the President’s goal, and certainly Tesla is one of those companies. 

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‘I would not expect this is the last time we talk about clean cars and the move towards electric vehicles, and we look forward to having a range of partners in that effort.’

Pressed on the Tesla exclusion, Psaki replied: ‘Well, these are the three largest employers of the United Auto Workers, so I’ll let you draw your own conclusions.’

Biden, known for his love of cars, gleefully took a new Jeep for a spin around the White House grounds during the summit. 

Biden stuck to the paths as he passed a view of the Lincoln Memorial in front of the White House

Biden stuck to the paths as he passed a view of the Lincoln Memorial in front of the White House 

He signed an executive order aimed at making half of all vehicles sold in 2030 electric, and proposed new vehicle emissions standards on Thursday that would cut pollution through 2026, starting with a 10 per cent stringency increase in 2023 model year.

‘The future of the American auto industry is electric,’ Biden said.

The two moves are part of Biden’s broader plan to fight climate change, in this case by targeting emissions from cars and trucks, while working to make the United States an industry leader while other countries move aggressively to dominate the electric vehicle market.

The 50 per cent target, which is not legally binding, won the support of U.S. and foreign automakers, who said that achieving it would require billions of dollars in government funding.

After signing the executive order on the South Lawn of the White House, he jumped into the waiting EV Jeep, which he proceeded to drive rapidly around the grounds, even honking at one point to let people know he was coming.  

‘You see that sucker over there?’ he told reporters, gesturing to one of the cars. 

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‘Nought to 60 in 4.1 seconds – it’s all electric!’ 

Biden has repeatedly resisted calls from many Democrats to set a binding requirement for EV adoption.

He has also refused, on the urging of the union, to follow California and some countries in setting 2035 as a date to phase out the sale of new gasoline-powered light duty vehicles.

UAW President Ray Curry, who attended the event, noted the EV goal but said it was focused ‘on preserving the wages and benefits that have been the heart and soul of the American middle class.’

The president took his jacket off and ran to the Wrangler to take it for a spin after signing the executive order

The president took his jacket off and ran to the Wrangler to take it for a spin after signing the executive order 

Biden spoke about electric cars and his eviction policy after his speech

Biden spoke about electric cars and his eviction policy after his speech

Biden told the crowd he will be the first to drive an electric Corvette when it has been manufactured

Biden told the crowd he will be the first to drive an electric Corvette when it has been manufactured 

Senator Gary Peters of Michigan agreed with Biden’s decision not to set a hard deadline for phasing out gasoline-powered vehicles. 

‘Flexibility is important, but at the same token you need to set ambitious goals,’ Peters said.

The executive order sets a schedule for developing new emissions standards through at least 2030 for light duty vehicles and as early as 2027 for larger vehicles.

Dan Becker, director of the Safe Climate Transport Campaign, said the plan ‘relies on unenforceable voluntary commitments from unreliable car makers..’ 

He added: ‘Voluntary pledges by auto companies make a New Year’s weight-loss resolution look like a legally binding contract.’ 

Meanwhile, U.S. regulators plan to propose revising former President Donald Trump’s March 2020 rollback of fuel economy standards. 

Trump required 1.5 per cent annual increases in efficiency through 2026, well below the 5 per cent yearly boosts set in 2012 by President Barack Obama’s administration.  



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