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Biden Administration Meets With Auto Execs, Including Elon Musk

The Biden administration held another meeting with automotive executives about how to ensure electric vehicles go mainstream. But this time it included Elon Musk, who runs the most successful EV brand in the entire world.

After taking criticism for shunning the Tesla CEO in earlier meetings, senior officials held an event on Wednesday where he and other industry leaders could contribute as to how the United States should handle a national charging infrastructure and spur adoption rates. Despite Musk having often expressed a dissenting opinion in regard to President Biden’s strategy, the White House said that the meeting was productive and resulted in a “broad consensus that charging stations and vehicles need to be interoperable and provide a seamless user experience, no matter what car you drive or where you charge your EV.” 

That seems like a given and the whole industry has been talking about standardizing charging stations for years. Tesla even tried to corner the market by crafting a nationwide network of proprietary chargers before legitimate competition manifested. However, the White House did not say a similar consensus was reached over how best to handle future EV subsidies.

While Musk’s opposition to renewing the tax-credit scheme is often framed as the direct result of additional incentives tied to unionized labor. The CEO actually opposes any relaunch of the Obama-era plan to subsidize electric vehicle purchases, even those that would disproportionally advantage Tesla after having already exhausted its own quota. Musk has said that EVs will eventually need to stand on their own if they’re ever to be taken seriously, adding that perpetual government backing was irresponsible and would ultimately stifle innovation. He wants the existing quotas to run their course, ensuring a level playing field for all auto manufacturers.

Leadership from other companies has been less opposed to the ideas coming out of the Biden administration. While a few legacy automakers have pushed back (e.g. Toyota), it’s typically due to policies that would link additional subsidies to unionized labor groups that formally supported Biden as a presidential candidate. But few have suggested forgoing additional investments from the government.

Reuters noted that congress had previously approved $7.5 billion in government funding for EV charging stations in 2021 to get the ball rolling. But it added that legislation has been stalled for the new tax incentives to purchase and manufacture electric cars, suggesting that some of the proposals therein may need to be revised or outright abandoned if there’s to be any chance of it passing.

From Reuters:

Ford Motor Chief Executive Jim Farley, Chrysler-parent Stellantis CEO Carlos Tavares, Lucid CEO Peter Rawlinson and Nissan Americas chair Jeremie Papin were among other auto leaders who took part in Wednesday’s meeting, which discussed US funding to “create a national network of 500,000 chargers.”

Also attending were Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm, National Climate Advisor Gina McCarthy and Infrastructure Coordinator Mitch Landrieu.

Executives from Hyundai Motor America, Subaru of America, Mazda North America, Toyota Motor North America Mercedes-Benz USA and Kia Motors America also took part.

General Motors CEO Mary Barra was also present and one wonders if she interacted with Musk after Joe Biden erroneously stated that she was the person responsible for “electrifying the entire auto industry” when Tesla holds the lion’s share of the EV market.

There was also rumored to be some talk about the Environmental Protection Agency’s recent decision to deploy tougher vehicle emissions regulations. The ruling has led to some legal challenges by several states and ethanol groups, with automakers coming to the EPA’s defense. The Alliance for Automotive Innovation, which represents nearly every major automaker, said the updated rules “will challenge the industry” but it’s ultimately more important that “critical regulatory provisions supporting electric vehicle technology are maintained.”

Meanwhile, corn growers, a Valero Energy subsidiary, and numerous ethanol producers reportedly said the new EPA rules creating stiffer emission requirements through 2026 “effectively mandate the production and sale of electric cars rather than cars powered by internal combustion engines.”

[Image: Orhan Cam/Shutterstock]

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