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President Biden Says Detroit Auto Show Offers “So Many Reasons to be Optimistic”

President Biden got behind the wheel during a trip to the Detroit Auto Show on Wednesday. Photo via White House on Twitter

The commander-in-chief checked out a few new autos and touted his administration’s progress in encouraging the domestic production of electric vehicles.

Self-proclaimed “car guy” Joe Biden spoke at the Detroit Auto Show in the Motor City on Wednesday, celebrating America’s longtime leadership in the auto industry and showing his immense support for the production of American-made electric vehicles.

Unfortunately, the United States is no longer leading the way in autos, at least when it comes to EVs. China dominates the sector for electric vehicle production, with companies like BYD, SGMW, Chery, and GAC under their belt. China sits at No. 1 in the EV production market, expected to produce more than 13 million by 2023; the United States is perched at No. 3.

President Biden admitted as much in his speech, noting that “something went wrong along the way here… we risk losing the edge as a nation, and China and the rest of the world are catching up.” But Biden argued that is about to change, as his administration is “choosing to build a better America — an America that’s confronting the climate crisis, with America’s workers leading the way.”

“And nowhere is that more evident than right here in Michigan, where you’re building the future of the electric vehicle,” Biden added. “We’re bringing back U.S. manufacturing jobs — 680,000 jobs just since I took office — good-paying jobs, union jobs, middle-class jobs, jobs that give you a sense of dignity and a fair shot.”

Biden used the auto show to officially announce a $900 million investment in EV charging stations, set to be installed across 53,000 miles of the National Highway System, across 35 states. This is only the start, as the new infrastructure law set aside $7.5 billion to build charging stations, Biden noted — pointing out that all those new stations are set to be installed by the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW).

Meanwhile, American companies like Ford, General Motors, and Stellantis — “I’m still inclined to say that other word, Chrysler — my dad worked for them for a while,” Biden joked — are making big time investments in American factories to build electric vehicles. Many of those new EVs will be built by members of the United Autoworkers (UAW), who Biden called “the most skilled autoworkers in the world and that’s not hyperbole.”

All told, the president said, there have been announced investments of $36 billion for EV production and a whopping $48 billion in EV battery production. And all of this is happening because the United States is finally putting an industrial policy in place, including via new laws like the infrastructure investment package, the CHIPS and Science Act, and the Inflation Reduction Act.

In total, $135 billion has been put forth “to advance the American EV future,” Biden said.

“It used to be — used to be that to buy an electric car, you had to make all sorts of compromises, but not now. Thanks to American ingenuity, American engineers, American autoworkers, that’s all changing,” Biden said. “Today, if you want an electric vehicle with a long range, you can buy one made in America. If you want one that charges quickly, buy American. You want one that’s fast in the quarter mile, buy American.”

Biden also pledged to work “with companies, community colleges, technical schools, [and] union-led apprenticeship training programs, to make sure American workers are prepared to compete and out-compete anyone in the world.”

The American Rescue Plan included a $52 million grant to train workers and “upgrade factories for [the] electric vehicle revolution,” Biden said. The first people to participate in this new training and job opportunity will be autoworkers who will become displaced by the shift to EV production, Biden added.

“You know, you all know I’m a car guy.  I’m here because the auto show and the vehicles here give me so many reasons to be optimistic about the future,” Biden said. “And I really mean it.  Just looking at them and driving them, they just give me a sense of optimism, although I like the speed too.”

Biden shared an interesting story in his speech about his time as vice president, when the financial crisis threatened the viability of the American auto industry. The Obama administration oversaw the auto industry rescue, and then-Vice President Biden played a key role.

“We were sitting one day in the Oval Office — I swear to God — and President Obama turned to me.  He said, ‘Joe, go fix Detroit.’  I said, ‘Oh, no problem.  None,'” Biden recalled. 

A lot of people predicted the death of the auto industry, he noted, but “we didn’t listen.”

“We extended a lifeline, and we stepped up and we saved more than a million jobs.  Because of that work, the U.S. auto manufacturers are in a position today to drive full speed ahead,” Biden added. “I believe we can own the future of the automobile market. I believe we can own the future of manufacturing. American manufacturing is back. Detroit is back. America is back. And, folks, we’re proving it’s never, ever, ever a good bet to bet against the American people.” 

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