GM, Ford CEOs push EV credits and chip funding at White House

Riley Beggin
The Detroit News

Washington — General Motors Co. CEO Mary Barra and Ford Motor Co. CEO Jim Farley urged passage of President Joe Biden's social safety net and climate policy bill at the White House Wednesday. 

Barra and Farley attended a meeting with Biden, eight other CEOs and administration officials to discuss how the president's agenda would help their businesses and the economy. 

President Joe Biden speaks to CEOs, including GM's Mary Barra (left) and Ford's Jim Farley (right) at the White House Wednesday.

It comes as Democrats in Congress are considering how they may pass pieces of Biden's agenda as standalone bills after centrist Democrat Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia said he couldn't support the $1.75 trillion bill last month.

Biden opened the meeting by touting Ford and GM's announcements last year that they're "moving to an all-electric future." Both companies pledged during the United Nations Climate Change Conference to work toward all new car sales being zero-emissions vehicles globally by 2040, and GM pledged to pursue all-zero emission vehicle sales by 2035. 

"The industrial Midwest, believe it or not, is coming back," Biden said. "American auto manufacturing is going to build electric vehicles and batteries and build them in America. We all know how important it is to manufacturing to have component parts made here in America."

He then asked some of the assembled CEOs to speak about what the Build Back Better agenda would mean to them. The CEO of Cummins and president of Microsoft spoke before Biden turned his attention to Barra. 

On Tuesday, GM announced it would invest $7 billion in battery and EV manufacturing facilities in Michigan with the support of more than $824 million in incentives from the state. Barra touted the projects and said that the company is working to "bring everybody along" in the transition to EVs by offering options at multiple price points.

General Motors CEO Mary Barra speaks during a meeting with President Joe Biden and private sector CEOs about the economy in the State Dining Room of the White House in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 26, 2022. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

"To do that it takes a good public-private partnership. For us to make those investments, we need provisions — especially the environmental provisions or the climate provisions (in Build Back Better) — that are going to uncap EV credits," she told the president. 

"We see with EV credits that it does stimulate the market. And to get to the aggressive greenhouse gas reduction goals that we have, getting strong demand is very important."

The bill, included in Build Back Better, would would lift the 200,000 vehicles per manufacturer cap and implement $7,500 point-of-sale consumer rebates for electric vehicles. It would 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. For the next five years after that, the $7,500 base credit would only apply to electric vehicles made in the U.S.

Tax credits that would support battery and other advanced manufacturing in the U.S. are also "vital" to "have economic growth and provide good-paying jobs," Barra added. 

She concluded by telling Biden that passing $52 billion in funding for domestic semiconductor chip manufacturing "really is a national imperative."

"Without having the ability to have that supply chain in this country is going to hurt our ability to lead in electric vehicles and autonomous vehicles. And these are key technologies for the future."

President Joe Biden speaks during a meeting with private sector CEOs about the economy in the State Dining Room of the White House in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 26, 2022.

The chips funding is not a part of Biden's social safety net and climate package, but is a bipartisan priority that has been pending in Congress for more than eight months. On Tuesday evening, House Democrats released their version of the legislation that is expected to be voted on next week.

Automakers worldwide have lost hundreds of billions in lost revenue and prices for new and used cars have skyrocketed in response to the global chip shortage. The high price of vehicles is one of the major drivers of inflation, Biden said. 

Officials ushered reporters out of the meeting before Farley could speak, but he told The Detroit News Tuesday that the EV tax credits were a top priority for the company. 

"We feel very strongly, as the No. 1 employer (in the U.S. auto sector), that we don't want to fall behind as a country, and we are falling behind as a country in electric adoption. That drives intellectual property to the U.S., and battery plants and new jobs, and green jobs," he said. 

"So, this is a big thing. If they don't get across the line, either in this legislation or some other form, we are very concerned about the competitiveness of the country. ... We want to make sure our home market moves on EVs."

Jim Farley, CEO of Ford, appears at a meeting with President Joe Biden and other private sector CEOs about the economy in the State Dining Room of the White House in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 26, 2022. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

The collective bargaining provision, which would give the Detroit automakers a $4,500 leg up over their non-unionized competition, has become a major flashpoint of the package. Automakers that are not organized by the United Auto Workers, including Tesla Inc. and foreign automakers operating in the U.S., have fiercely opposed the proposal, arguing it unfairly discriminates against American workers who choose not to join a union. 

Republicans and Sen. Joe Manchin, a centrist Democrat from West Virginia who wields immense influence over the proposal's fate, have also spoken out against it, while trading partners Canada, Mexico and the European Union have argued it is a violation of trade agreements. 

Farley told The News the company would "certainly prefer" that the union provision stays in the EV tax credit proposal. 

"But generally speaking, at a competitiveness level of the country, just having enough incentives to help the customer make the economic decision to transition to electric is probably the bigger, more important priority."

Staff writer Jordyn Grzelewski contributed.

Twitter: @rbeggin