President Joe Biden took a victory lap on Wednesday at the Detroit auto show, highlighting automakers’ increasing shift to electric vehicles and billions of dollars in new investments in battery plants.
The trip to the Detroit auto show, the largest such event in North America, is part of stepped-up travel in advance of the midterm elections to highlight his party’s agenda. Democrat Biden sought to focus voter attention on strides the nation is making in the transition to electric vehicles under his leadership and the role unions will play in the industry.
“We’re choosing to build a better America, an America that is confronting the climate crisis, with America’s workers leading the way,” Biden said.
The president was introduced by local auto union worker Ryan Buchalski, who said the president was “kicking ass for the working class.”
Biden announced the approval of the first $900 million in U.S. funding to build EV charging stations in 35 states as part of a $1 trillion infrastructure law approved last November. The goal is to create a nationwide charging network.
Detroit’s Big Three automakers are showing off new EVs at the car show. The U.S. Congress and Biden, a self-described “car guy,” have pledged tens of billions of dollars in loans, manufacturing and consumer tax credits and grants to speed the transition away from internal combustion vehicles to cleaner EVs.
Still, gasoline-powered trucks are well-represented at the exhibition. A significant majority of new vehicles sold by the Detroit Three are still gas-powered models and Tesla Inc dominates the U.S. electric vehicle market and outsells the Detroit Three automakers combined on EVs.
In August 2021, Biden set a goal that EVs or plug-in hybrid vehicles represent 50 percent of all U.S. new vehicle sales by 2030. The Detroit Three back the nonbinding goal of 50 percent.
“A great American Road Trip is going to be fully electrified,” Biden declared.
The White House has heralded a string of major investment announcements from U.S. and foreign automakers to build new battery plants and electric vehicles.
White House National Climate Adviser Ali Zaidi told Reuters automakers and battery firms in 2022 announced “$13 billion into EV manufacturing” as they accelerate “the pace of their investment into capital projects here in the United States.”
In July, the U.S. Energy Department said it plans to lend Ultium Cells LLC, a joint venture of GM and LG Energy Solution, $2.5 billion to help finance construction of new lithium-ion battery cell manufacturing facilities.
When he served as vice president in the Obama administration, Biden attended the Detroit auto show as a strong advocate of the 2008-09 bailouts of General Motors Co and Chrysler, which is now part of Stellantis NV.
EV battery makers are looking to increase U.S. production as the country implements stricter regulation and tightens tax credit eligibility.
In August, California moved to require all new vehicles sold in the state by 2035 to be either electric or plug-in electric hybrids. The Biden administration has declined to endorse a specific phaseout date for gas-powered vehicles.
Honda Motor Co Ltd recently announced it will build a new $4.4 billion lithium-ion battery plant for U.S. EVs with Korean battery supplier LG Energy Solution Ltd.
Toyota Motor Corp said it will boost its planned investment in a new U.S. battery plant from $1.29 billion to $3.8 billion.
GM and LG Energy Solution in August began production at their $2.3 billion joint-venture battery production plant in Ohio. The companies are considering a site in New Carlisle, Indiana, for a fourth U.S. battery cell manufacturing plant expected to cost around $2.4 billion.
“I believe we can own the future of the automobile market. I believe we can own the future of manufacturing. American manufacturing is back. Detroit is back. America’s back, and folks we’re proving it’s never, ever, ever a good bet to bet against the American people,” Biden said.
By Reuters (Reporting by David Shepardson and Jeff Mason in Detroit and Jarrett Renshaw in Philadelphia; Editing by Matthew Lewis and David Gregorio)