President Joe Biden used a visit to a new plant in Ford Motor Co.’s Rouge manufacturing complex to emphasize the administration’s push for electric vehicles as the automaker prepared to unveil the new, all-electric F-150 Lightning.
“The future of the auto industry is electric,” Biden said to a small crowd of executives, political figures and union official and employees. He made his remarks inside the plant slated to build the battery-electric and plug-in hybrid versions of the popular F-150, which has been the best-selling vehicle in the U.S. for more than four decades.
Biden, in violation of long-standing Secret Service policy that presidents do not drive themselves, managed to the take the F-150 Lighting for a spin on a Ford test track in front of photographers. “This sucker’s quick,” said Biden, who is a known car buff.
Biden linked the race to build electric vehicles to the competition with China and the need to slow climate change, which has the potential to wreak havoc on the planet. The shift to electric vehicles also represents an opportunity to create thousands of new, good paying jobs, said Biden as he touted his proposed plan for rebuilding and renovating American infrastructure.
Man with a plan
The president described his proposed infrastructure plan as a “blueprint for Blue Collar America” with 90% of the jobs created by the program going to workers without college degrees. But he also said the infrastructure plan also calls for substantial investment in research and development as well as high-tech manufacturing plants that can build everything from car batteries to semiconductors.
“The U.S. should never again be left in a position where it does not have enough of the essential semiconductors that investment by the U.S. Department of Defense and NASA first created decades ago,” he said.
The United States used to be the leader in research and development and China used to rank eighth. The positions have reversed in recent years, China is now the top producer while the U.S. is now No. 8. Roughly 80% of the world’s capacity for car batteries is now in China, which gives them a big edge in securing critical supplies of raw materials such as lithium, Biden noted.
The U.S. can and must do better, said Biden, who said his administration intends to mandate the critical components needed for electric vehicles and other products be made in the U.S. rather than overseas. “If you don’t lead, you fall behind,” he said, and his administration does not intend to fall behind in critical areas such as manufacturing.
Nod to unions
As he opened his speech, Biden also praised the United Auto Workers, saying he would never have been elected to the U.S. Senate without the support of the UAW. “A job isn’t just about money. It’s about respect,” he said. “It’s about a place in the community,” added Biden, who recounted that his father had managed car dealerships in the state of Delaware for more than 30 years.
He also praised Michigan’s Democratic governor, Gretchen Whitmer, and several Michigan Congressman including Rashida Tlaib (D-Michigan), who has protested the Biden’s administration’s support for Israel during the recent violence in the Middle East.
“On behalf of the UAW family, I am proud to welcome President Joe Biden to the launch of the F-150 Lightning in Dearborn, Michigan,” UAW President Rory Gamble said in a statement issued as Biden’s visit began.
“UAW members are proud to be on the frontlines in making cars of the future that deliver on the goals of reducing emissions in transportation and supporting high quality union jobs that sustain families and communities. We are honored that the president has chosen to join us in Dearborn on this historic occasion.”
Gamble added it is no secret that the U.S. auto industry as at crossroads, as sales of electric vehicles and plug-ins hybrids are to become more and more common on American roads in the years to come. “What we do today will shape our economy, the auto industry, and our communities for decades to come,” he added.