Biden wants union-made, US-built electric cars: This is the only one available today

Why was Tesla left out last week?

That question became something of a distraction on Thursday, when President Biden announced tighter emissions rules and more electric vehicles in the near future, framed in the context of more manufacturing jobs and the made-in-America laser focus that’s been a hallmark of his.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki did clarify why, that same day: the United Auto Workers. 

"Today it's the three largest employers of the United Auto Workers and the UAW president who will stand with President Biden," Psaki told reporters, according to MarketWatch. 

2022 Ford F-150 Lightning

2022 Ford F-150 Lightning

Biden announced a combined target of 50% EVs, including plug-in hybrids and fuel-cell models, by 2030. He was flanked by automaker executives and the UAW, the executives of the American “Big Three” (GM, Ford, and Chrysler) as they announced a “shared aspiration” to achieve 40% EVs by then.  

But Stellantis, the parent company of Chrysler, Jeep, and Ram, is headquartered in the Netherlands, and the third largest U.S. headquartered automaker was left out of the event entirely. As Tesla CEO Elon Musk pointed out, and as we noted in our original coverage that day, Tesla wasn't invited. 

Tesla has not only built more electric vehicles in the U.S. than any other automaker, it’s also exported more EVs than any other automaker. However none of them have used UAW labor. 

UAW-made sticker on 2022 Chevy Bolt EV

UAW-made sticker on 2022 Chevy Bolt EV

Only one fully electric vehicle model family fits the U.S.-made and UAW labor requirements today: the Chevrolet Bolt EV and EUV. Those models are made at GM’s Orion Assembly in Lake Orion, Michigan, as this sticker above proudly proclaims on a 2022 Chevy Bolt EV.

For now, that’s about it. The Mustang Mach-E is union-made in Mexico. The Nissan Leaf is made in Tennessee by non-union workers. And the Volkswagen ID.4 is union-made in Germany, although starting next year the ID.4 will be made in Tennessee—likely by non-union workers. 

And then there’s Tesla, which has at times vocally fought union efforts at its Fremont plant, which was unionized when under previous GM and Toyota (NUMMI) control. The National Labor Relations Board found Tesla in violation of federal labor laws for a 2018 incident, and it ordered Tesla to make Elon Musk delete a tweet that labor organizers within the company saw as threatening. 

Tesla factory, Fremont, California

Tesla factory, Fremont, California

That probably had something to do with the company’s exclusion from a union-centric ceremony.

An expansion of the EV tax credit that President Biden reportedly backs, spearheaded by Michigan Senator Debbie Stabenow, would eliminate the current cap of 200,000 vehicles by manufacturer but include an extra $2,500 for vehicles assembled in the U.S. and $2,500 for union-made models—with up to a $12,500 credit for both. 

American-made, UAW-made EVs are in the works. Among them, the Ford F-150 Lightning, GMC Hummer EV, and Chevrolet Silverado are all slated to be Michigan-built by UAW workers, while the Cadillac Lyriq (and, likely, an upcoming Acura model) are to be UAW-built in Tennessee. Jeep doesn’t have a fully electric model yet, but it builds the Wrangler 4xe plug-in hybrid in Ohio. 

Among the automakers who also plan to produce electric vehicles in the U.S.—likely not with UAW labor—are Hyundai, Kia, and Volvo.

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