By David Shepardson
WASHINGTON – U.S. President Joe Biden publicly acknowledged the role of Tesla in U.S. electric vehicle manufacturing on Tuesday, after Chief Executive Elon Musk repeatedly complained about being ignored.
“From iconic companies like GM and Ford building out new electric vehicle production to Tesla, our nation’s largest electric vehicle manufacturer, to innovative younger companies,” Biden said, adding other start-ups and saying manufacturing is coming “back to America after decades.”
Biden wants to give union-made, American-built electric vehicles an additional $4,500 tax incentive, setting up a clash between automakers Tesla and Toyota Motor Corp without U.S. unionized workers on one side, and United Auto Workers-affiliated carmakers in Detroit on the other.
Musk also opposed government funding for subsidizing electric vehicle charging stations.
Last month, Biden met with General Motors Chief Executive Mary Barra, and the White House has repeatedly praised the Detroit automaker’s electric vehicle efforts, even though it is selling far fewer EVs than Tesla.
After Biden’s met with Barra in January and tweeted a video of the two talking, Musk replied “Starts with a T/Ends with an A/ESL in the middle” and then compared Biden to a “damp sock puppet.
In September, Musk said Biden’s electric vehicle policy appeared to be controlled by labor unions. He also criticized Biden in August when he was not invited to a White House event.
“(They) didn’t mention Tesla once and praised GM and Ford for leading the EV revolution. Does that sound maybe a little biased?” Musk said during a panel discussion. “Not the friendliest administration, seems to be controlled by unions.”
Asked in August whether the White House did not invite Musk because workers at Tesla are not unionized, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said: “I’ll let you draw your own conclusion.”
When asked about Biden’s Tesla namedropping on Tuesday, Psaki said “We all know that Tesla is a major producer of electric vehicles,” and added the White House sees “huge opportunity” for the United States from the industry overall.
(Reporting by David Shepardson and Jarrett Renshaw; Editing by Heather Timmons and Marguerita Choy)