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Biden, visiting GM in Detroit, says U.S. will overtake China in EVs

The infrastructure bill signed this week will ‘turn that around in a big, big way,’ president says in Detroit

The U.S. will surpass China to lead the charge in electric vehicles, President Joe Biden said Wednesday at the opening of General Motors’ EV plant in Detroit, Factory Zero.
If the U.S. stops investing in the future, “we lose our edge as a nation. China and the rest of the world are catching up,” Biden said. “We’re about to turn that around in a big, big way.”

China has been in the lead, but the infrastructure bill Biden signed this week will put the U.S. ahead, he said.

Factory Zero, formerly called Detroit-Hamtramck Assembly, will launch the first of GM’s EVs powered by its proprietary Ultium batteries. The GMC Hummer EV supertruck, the first vehicle built at the plant, will begin shipping to dealerships by year end. GM also plans to build an SUV version of the Hummer, an electric Chevrolet Silverado and the Cruise Origin self-driving van at the plant. GM soon will announce another electric truck plant in the U.S., CEO Mary Barra said Wednesday.

GM has committed to a future of electrification, dedicating $35 billion to electric and autonomous vehicle development and planning to launch 30 EVs globally through 2025. The automaker aims to have an all-electric light-vehicle portfolio by 2035.

GM’s EV goals align with an executive order Biden signed in August aimed at making half of new-vehicle sales electric by 2030. The target is not legally binding and includes plug-in hybrid models with gasoline engines.

IHS Markit expects battery-electric vehicle sales to make up 15 percent of U.S. light-vehicle sales by 2025 and 34 percent by 2030.

The infrastructure bill covers $550 billion of spending, including $7.5 billion for EV charging stations and $65 billion for upgrades to the country’s electric grid.

Still on the table is the $1.75 trillion Build Back Better Act, which includes a controversial bonus tax credit for union-built EVs. Volkswagen Group of America, American Honda Motor Co., Toyota Motor North America, which operate nonunion plants in the U.S., and U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va.,  have publicly opposed the tax credit. Manchin called the credit “wrong” and “not American.”

Biden emphasized the value of unions and union-built, American-built vehicles Wednesday.

“The middle class built America, and unions built the middle class,” he said.

U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., said she supports consumer rebates for union-built vehicles made in the U.S. She criticized Toyota and other Japanese automakers for opposing the rebates while operating unionized plants in Japan, a market that is largely closed off to U.S. automakers.

“It takes a lot of nerve for them to fight our efforts to have a consumer bonus for buying vehicles made by the United Auto Workers,” she said at the Factory Zero event. “I call this leveling the playing field, and I am committed to supporting the home team.”

Justin Sink/Bloomberg via Twitter

Biden gave the new Hummer EV prototype a test drive in the Factory Zero parking lot in Detroit.

Factory Zero updates

GM committed $2.2 billion to Factory Zero, which had been spared from closure during UAW labor negotiations in late 2019. The plant stopped making Chevrolet Impala and Cadillac CT6 sedans in early 2020.

Since early last year, Factory Zero has gone through renovations and retooling, the largest overhaul for a GM manufacturing facility. The plant has expanded to more than 4.5 million square feet, and the paint shop, body shop and general assembly areas have received new machines, conveyors, controls and tooling. GM also added an automated storage building for Ultium battery assembly on-site.