Elon Musk Says Tesla Was Not Invited to White House EV Event

The White House hosted an EV-themed event on Thursday of this week to announce the administration’s executive action on green vehicles, aimed at raising the share of battery-electric, plug-in hybrid, and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles to 50% of sales by 2030. Representatives from General Motors, Ford, and Stellantis were attendance during the event that announced the wide-ranging (but non-binding) executive action, with President Joe Biden even driving a PHEV Jeep Wrangler on the White House grounds.

But one prominent electric automaker was notably absent from the event and from the statements issued by the administration.

On the one hand, Tesla was an EV-only automaker from the start, so including it in the administration’s event and announcement was perhaps redundant—it’s all the other automakers that have their work cut out for them to increase their EV offerings in the coming years. So Tesla doesn’t have anything new to commit to per se.

On the other hand, Tesla CEO Elon Musk indicated on Wednesday night that the automaker’s absence from the administration’s announcement was unexpected.

Yeah, seems odd that Tesla wasn’t invited

Other EV makers and start-ups such as Rivian, Fisker, Faraday, Bollinger, Arrival, Lucid, and Lordstown were also not mentioned by name in the administration’s statements.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki responded a question during the day about Tesla’s absence from the event, and strongly hinted that the lack of UAW representation at Tesla plants may have been part of the reason.

“Well, we, of course, welcome the efforts of all automakers who recognize the potential of an electric vehicle future and support efforts that will help reach the president’s goal,” Psaki said in response to a question about Tesla’s absence. “And certainly, Tesla is one of those companies. Today, it’s the three largest employers of the United Auto Workers, and the UAW president who will stand with President Biden as he announces his ambitious new target, but I would not expect this is the last time we talk about clean cars, the move toward electric vehicles, and we look forward to having a range of partners in that effort.”

“Well, these are the three largest employers of the United Auto Workers, so I’ll let you draw your own conclusions,” Psaki added when asked about Tesla’s absence.

The UAW was a prominent part of the administration’s announcement of 2030 ZEV targets, and released its own statement on the executive order.

“We are at a critical time for the auto industry as countries compete to build the vehicles of the future,” UAW President Ray Curry said in part. “We are falling behind China and Europe as manufacturers pour billions into growing their markets and expanding their manufacturing. We need to make investments here in the United States. Fortunately, President Biden recognizes the importance of this moment, and his Build Back Better Plan makes the bold investments in manufacturing, consumer incentives, and infrastructure needed to ensure vehicles of the future are made in our country. Investments alone are not enough. Today’s announcement on emissions standards brings more certainty and better planning for the auto industry and UAW member future jobs.”

The UAW has had a contentious relationship with Tesla in the past, having attempted to organize the Fremont plant without success, and initiated a suit on behalf of an employee who was allegedly fired for union organizing activities at the plant. The incident prompted the National Labor Relations Board to order Tesla to offer to reinstate the worker. The UAW had also made note of the automaker’s stance on unions, which at one point prompted the NLRB to order the CEO to remove a tweet discouraging unionization efforts at the plant.

“Nothing stopping Tesla team at our car plant from voting union. Could do so tmrw if they wanted. But why pay union dues & give up stock options for nothing?” Musk wrote in 2018 in a tweet that was later criticized by the NLRB.

Overall, this week’s instance of Tesla’s exclusion from the event is unlikely to have an effect on consumer perception of the automaker—the focus late this week was squarely on the big three automakers and their EV plans, as they’re the ones that have to make an effort to expand their zero-emission offerings in the coming years.

“While the UAW notes that the companies have made voluntary commitments on Electric Vehicles, the UAW focus is not on hard deadlines or percentages, but on preserving the wages and benefits that have been the heart and soul of the American middle class,” Curry added in a statement on the administration’s executive action.


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