US president Joe Biden has made a speech crediting auto giant General Motors for electrifying “the entire auto industry” and ignoring the fact that the market leader in electric vehicles is undeniably Tesla.
Granted, the speech was made at the opening of the automaker’s new “Factory Zero”, the renovated Detroit-Hamtramck factory on which it has spent $US2.2 billion ($A3 billion) and where it has begun pre-production of its upcoming electric utility truck, The Hummer EV.
Standing in front of the crowd with two white Hummer EVs behind him and speaking directly to GM CEO Mary Barra, Biden said, “You electrified the entire automobile industry, I’m serious, you led and it matters.”
While it’s not exactly surprising that Biden did not mention Tesla at an event celebrating GM’s new factory, it is a curious stance to suggest the American automaker is leading the electrification of the entire US car market when in fact it will keep making petrol and diesel cars until until 2035 – 14 years away.
As a lot of folks know, I’m a car guy. I’ve gotten a chance to drive some pretty incredible vehicles over the years, but I never could have imagined ones like the electric vehicle I took for a spin today.
The future is electric – and it will be made right here in America. pic.twitter.com/foX0ydM6mo
— President Biden (@POTUS) November 18, 2021
The speech echoes the August event at which Biden announced the current US administration’s goal to reach 50% electric vehicle sales by 2030, inviting GM, Ford and Chrysler’s parent company Stellantis to the event, but not Tesla.
The reason behind this was apparently made clear by Biden who underlined in his speech several times his wish that the American electric cars made by union workers lead the industry. UAW (United Auto Workers), which represents 400,000 US auto industry staff, has unsuccessfully tried to unionise the Tesla workforce.
It has been reported that Tesla discourages staff from joining the UAW because if they do so they will lose benefits like stock options, although in a 2018 tweet Musk argued that this is a condition of joining the UAW.
In March, Tesla was ordered by the US federal National Labor Relations Board to delete the tweet by Musk and told it had violated labour laws when it fired a union activist.
Now, Musk has responded to the latest comments by Biden to one of Tesla’s Full Self-Driving beta testers Kim Paquette on Twitter, who said, “What a slap in the face to all the American Tesla employees who worked so hard to actually lead the way.”
“Indeed,” said Musk.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) November 18, 2021
Even more disturbing was the fact that Musk had earlier responded to the Biden snub by tweeting a Sky News video featuring Australian right-wing media pundit Andrew Bolt that raised questions about Biden’s mental faculties.
What is clear is that the electrification of transport would perhaps not be happening on the scale that it is without Tesla, which in 2021 remains the market leader on a global scale.
As reported by JosPontes for Cleantechnica, from January to September Tesla sold 627,000 electric cars – and all of them pure battery-powered vehicles.
GM does get a look in if you include the fact that it has a joint venture with Chinese automakers SAIC and Wuling Motors, the latter of which makes the tiny HongGuang Mini EV which ranked the second best-selling EV in September after topping the market earlier in the year.
China’s SAIC has sold 410,000 EVs sold from January to September, followed by Volkswagen with almost 300,000 plug-in electric vehicles sold, then BYD with 186,000 sold and Hyundai-Kia with 140,000 sold according to Pontes.
Tesla sold 360,000 Model 3s globally in that period, and 254,000 Model Ys, while there were 289,000 HongGuang Mini EVs sold, all of them in China.
All in all, General Motors will spend up to $US30 billion as it progresses towards its 100% electric goals. This will include making 25% electric vehicles by 2025 and 50% by 2030 (the corollary to which of course is half of its vehicles in 2030 will still burn fossil fuels).
The company estimates that making electric vehicles uses about 80% of the same assembly line as making combustion vehicles. It will use its proprietary Ultium battery in its electric vehicles, which it will in Lordstown, Ohio. By 2025, it plans to be selling 30 electric vehicle models globally, including the Hummer EV, the Chevrolet Bolt and Bolt UAV, and the Cadillac Lyriq.
Bridie Schmidt is associate editor for The Driven, sister site of Renew Economy. She has been writing about electric vehicles since 2018, and has a keen interest in the role that zero-emissions transport has to play in sustainability. She has participated in podcasts such as Download This Show with Marc Fennell and Shirtloads of Science with Karl Kruszelnicki and is co-organiser of the Northern Rivers Electric Vehicle Forum. Bridie also owns a Tesla Model 3 and has it available for hire on evee.com.au.