Foreign auto group's ad campaign opposes EV tax credits that favor union shops

Riley Beggin
The Detroit News

An advocacy organization for foreign automakers selling vehicles in the United States has launched a digital ad campaign opposing electric vehicle tax credits that would favor the Detroit Three by boosting union-made cars. 

Autos Drive America's first ad, "This is An Insult," is being published "across various media platforms" in Washington, D.C., and in auto manufacturing states around the country, according to the organization. The group represents 12 foreign automakers, including Honda Motor Co., Toyota Motor Corp., Volkswagen AG and more. 

"American autoworkers take pride in their work. They pay taxes. They support American communities. So why is congress pushing EV incentives that only benefit union workers?" the advertisement says. "It's not fair, it's an insult to American auto workers."

The group is opposing an EV tax credit proposal from Rep. Dan Kildee, D-Flint Township, and Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Lansing, that passed out of a House committee last week and which would be included in Democrats' $3.5 trillion social spending bill. 

Kildee and Stabenow's legislation would eliminate the automaker cap on EV credits and implement a $7,500 point-of-sale consumer rebate for electric vehicles. The bill would also pay out an additional $4,500 for vehicles assembled in a union facility and $500 for vehicles using a battery manufactured in the U.S.

Only EVs under certain price points would qualify, and the bargain would be limited to people making less than $400,000 a year, heads of households making less than $600,000 a year, or joint filers making less than $800,000 a year. 

The significant incentive for union-made electric vehicles has drawn fierce backlash from foreign automakers, whose workers are largely not unionized, and from many Republicans in Congress who represent auto manufacturing states with fewer union members.

U.S. assembly workers at General Motors Co., Ford Motor Co. and Stellantis NV are represented by the United Auto Workers union. The three Detroit automakers and the have expressed support for the proposal, as well as environmental groups such as the League of Conservation Voters, the Environmental Defense Action Fund and the Sierra Club. 

"Half of all vehicles manufactured in the U.S. are built by Americans who have chosen not to join a union. Prioritizing among American auto workers creates an unlevel playing field that will limit consumer choice and punish non-unionized American workers, their families, and their communities," Jennifer Safavian, president and CEO of Autos Drive America, said in a statement.

"Our campaign urges Congress not to endorse electric vehicle incentives that only benefit union workers in certain states. They need to stand up for all American auto workers."

The initial ad buy is just the beginning, said Autos Drive America spokesperson Annemarie Pender. The group expects to release another 60-second advertisement later this week. 

Kildee argued that non-unionized automakers will still benefit from receiving an unlimited number of consumer credits — currently, there's a 200,000-vehicle cap, which has pushed General Motors and Tesla Inc. out of the running for the incentive. 

He told The Detroit News last week that he would be open to tweaking the union provision if he can find language to reward companies with very high labor standards, but said "it's been a difficult path" to pinpoint language he and his colleagues can agree upon. 

Still, both Kildee and Stabenow told The News they stand by the union provisions in the package. 

"I'm not going to apologize for the fact that we think labor-union supported workers should go to the front of the line," Kildee said. "They helped build the middle class, we want to keep it that way. If we invest in jobs that have good wages, good benefits, good workers protections, that benefits everybody."

Twitter: @rbeggin