At the White House on Thursday, President Joe Biden praised automakers’ ambitious electric vehicle goals. But he did so without the world’s largest electric vehicle manufacturer, Tesla.
Biden was joined by executives from General Motors (GM), Ford (F), and Stellantis, the company formed by the merger of Fiat Chrysler and PSA earlier this year. However, electric vehicles account for a small percentage of these companies’ US sales — 1.5 percent for GM and 1.3 percent for Ford so far this year — and Stellantis currently sells no pure EVs in the US.
Meanwhile, Tesla (TSLA) has always specialized in battery-powered electric vehicles. So, why wouldn’t the world’s largest electric vehicle manufacturer be invited to the table?
Elon Musk, the company’s CEO, said in a tweet overnight, “Yeah, seems odd that Tesla wasn’t invited.”
The United Auto Workers union will also be present at the ceremony, which could explain the apparent snub. The United Auto Workers (UAW) represents workers at GM, Ford, and Stellantis, but has been unsuccessful in organizing Tesla workers at the company’s Fremont, California, plant.
At her 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.”
Asked if Tesla being a nonunion company was the reason it wasn’t included Thursday, Psaki replied, “Well, these are the three largest employers of the United Auto Workers, so I’ll let you draw your own conclusions.”
Early Thursday, the three automakers issued a joint statement announcing their “shared aspiration” for plug-in vehicles to account for 40% to 50% of their sales by 2030. However, that total does not include plug-in hybrids with gasoline engines.
In the past, the Biden administration has emphasized the importance of electric vehicles in creating “good-paying, union jobs.”
When asked about it by CNN, UAW spokesman Brian Rothenberg said he was unaware that Tesla was not invited to the event.
Volkswagen (VLKAF), which has already surpassed Tesla in EV sales in Europe this year, plans to begin producing an electric vehicle for the US market in 2022 at its Chattanooga, Tennessee, plant. However, the UAW has failed to win union representation votes at that plant on two occasions. The German carmaker will also be absent from the White House event.
Despite the fact that Tesla has opened a second assembly line in Shanghai, China, it is only serving Asian and European customers, not American customers. It is building two plants, one near Austin, Texas, and the other near Berlin, Germany.