Tesla, the world leader in electric vehicles, was barred from attending a White House event Thursday where US President Joe Biden announced a major push for zero-emission vehicles.
“Yeah, seems odd that Tesla wasn’t invited,” Tesla CEO Elon Musk said in a tweet.
Instead, Biden invited executives from the “Big Three” American automakers as he signed a non-binding executive order outlining the objective – and then drove an electric Jeep around the White House driveway.
Biden was joined by executives from General Motors (GM) and Ford (F), as well as Stellantis, the company formed earlier this year by the merger of Fiat Chrysler and France’s PSA. However, electric vehicles account for only a small portion of these companies’ US sales — 1.5 percent for GM and 1.3 percent for Ford so far this year — and Stellantis does not yet have any pure EVs for sale in the US.
The irascible entrepreneur [Musk] has set the industry standard, and Tesla last month reported its first-ever quarterly profit of more than $1 billion on record deliveries.
Nissan Motor Co., whose Leaf was a pioneer in electric vehicles, Honda Motor Co., the first Japanese manufacturer to vow to phase out gasoline-powered cars, and Volkswagen AG, which is investing $41 billion on electrification R&D, partly as restitution for a diesel cheating scandal, were also excluded.
Meanwhile, Tesla (TSLA) has traditionally produced only battery-powered electric automobiles. So, why wouldn’t the world’s largest EV manufacturer be invited to the table?
“Today, it’s the three largest employers of the United Auto Workers and the UAW president who will stand with President Biden as he announces his ambitious new target,” White House News Secretary Jen Psaki said during a press briefing on Thursday.
When asked if the exclusion was linked to Tesla’s non-union status, White House spokesperson Jen Psaki told reporters that the invited firms “are the three largest key players of the United Auto Workers. So I’ll let you draw your own conclusion.”
Musk’s Tesla automobile firm is not unionized.
During her pre-event press briefing on Thursday, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki was asked about Tesla’s absence.
“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,” Psaki said. “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.”
Biden has made restoring American industry and labor support central to his Build Back Better economic agenda. While some foreign-owned carmakers sell EVs in the United States and many have facilities there, they have usually established their plants in right-to-work states and have effectively blocked unionization efforts.
Early Thursday, the three manufacturers released a joint statement proclaiming their “shared aspiration” for plug-in cars to account for 40 percent to 50 percent of their sales by 2030. However, that number would include plug-in hybrids with gasoline engines.
Throughout the speech, Biden emphasized the potential benefits of an electric car transition for union employees.
“When I hear ‘climate’ I think jobs — good paying union jobs,” Biden remarked on the White House grounds.
When asked about it by CNN, UAW spokesman Brian Rothenberg said he was unaware that Tesla had not been invited to the event.
According to an administration official, executives from the Big Three were present to demonstrate their voluntary support for the concept. Some of their automobile models were rolled onto the White House driveway in a free advertising opportunity
According to government figures, over 327,000 electric vehicles were sold in the United States in 2019. The Tesla Model 3, which begins at under $40,000, accounted for more than 47 percent of those purchases. Another 6% were the more costly Tesla Model X, which starts about $100,000, and nearly 5% were the Tesla Model S, which starts at $90,000..