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Trump is attacking electric vehicles. Automakers already bet their future on them

New York CNN —
The auto industry has announced more than $100 billion in electric car investments, creating more than 100,000 American jobs. A second Donald Trump presidency could derail the push.
Despite Former President Donald Trump’s claims at a Detroit rally Wednesday that EVs are “too expensive” and “don’t go far enough,” consumers are increasingly demanding EVs because of falling costs, a wider variety of vehicle availability, and a flood of government and manufacturing investments.
But EV adoption has been slow – just 7.2% of the market last quarter, up from 5.7% the same time a year prior, according to Cox Automotive. Organic demand alone probably isn’t enough to justify automakers’ massive investments in EV technology.
That’s why automakers are counting on Biden administration incentives to give consumer demand an artificial boost. Biden’s Environmental Protection Agency is pushing for EVs to account for up to two-thirds of new cars sold in the US by 2032 through a combination of tax incentive carrots and miles-per-gallon-floor sticks.
Without these carrots and sticks, which Trump wants to reverse, US automakers’ plans will likely blow up.
“The possibility of a sudden shift [of policy] would be pretty shocking for the industry to absorb,” said Barry Rabe, a professor of public policy and environmental policy at the University of Michigan. “I can’t imagine the industry is going to want to be jerked back and forth every four or eight years.”
And while Trump may denounce EVs, many lawmakers in his party are capitalizing on these investments and welcoming the transition. More than half of new clean energy projects announced since passage of the IRA have been located in GOP-led districts.
Georgia has seen the most EV jobs announced and is home to major factories from established manufacturers like Hyundai and Kia to EV upstarts like Rivian. The state’s Republican Gov. Brian Kemp has pledged to make Georgia the “electric mobility capital” of the country.
Automakers’ future
Automakers have announced more than $120 billion in EV investments and 143,000 new US jobs in the last eight years, with more than 40% of those investments happening since the passage of the IRA, according to the Environmental Defense Fund.
Battery plants from US and foreign automakers like Nissan and Mercedes-Benz are being built in states like Georgia, South Carolina and Alabama.
Legacy automakers are pivoting to electric vehicles in response to expected strong consumer demand, tougher environmental regulations both from US states and foreign countries, and a push from Wall Street.
Investors have made Tesla by far the most valuable automaker on the planet, despite having only a fraction of other major automakers’ sales, and other automakers are jealously eyeing its stock market growth.
Electric vehicles have outpaced growth of traditional internal combustion engine (ICE) cars in recent years. More than 50% of shoppers were interested in buying an EV, according to a Cox survey this summer. Fifty-three perecent of consumers said that EVs will eventually replace ICE-powered vehicles.
As a result of consumer demand and regulations, General Motors has set a goal of phasing out the sale of all internal combustion vehicles by 2035, and Ford has said it hopes EVs make up almost half of its sales by 2030. GM even changed its logo to look like an electrical plug.
“For a major manufacturer to bet that the future of transportation is ICE-powered vehicles seems like a tougher and tougher case to make,” said Rabe.
Biden’s EV strategy
The Democrats’ Inflation Reduction Act included billions of dollars in government loans to the automakers to fund their plans to build EV battery plants. Consumers can get up to $7,500 back in tax credits on US-made EVs.
The administration’s separate infrastructure bill provides $7.5 billion to fund a network of charging stations to power EVs.
These incentives are designed to lower the cost of buying and manufacturing EVs in the United States.
Legacy US automakers are behind Tesla and Chinese manufacturers in the EV race, and they need those subsidies to remain competitive, experts say.
“We find ourselves behind in battery technology. If we want to maintain competitiveness in the industry, we have to invest to make gains and catch up,” said Jon McNeill, the co-founder of DVx Ventures and former president at Tesla. McNeill is on the Board of General Motors. “If we let up on the accelerator, we may cede the industry. That’s not good for any American,” McNeill said.
Trump’s plan to roll back EVs
Trump clashed with automakers during his tenure in the White House.
While in office, Trump upended the auto industry by proposing to replace Obama-era fuel standards with a plan that called for substantially lower annual increases.
Trump also relaxed air pollution and mileage regulations. But automakers bucked Trump and agreed to meet tougher standards set by California rather than the Trump administration’s rules.
Now, Trump wants the EV push halted.
At a Detroit battery plant Wednesday, Trump said America didn’t need what the factory produced.
“This plant, we just walked through this plant and the electric vehicles are gonna put [automakers] out of business,” Trump said. “They don’t need any of this. The things that you make in Michigan, they don’t need any of it.”
Writing on Truth Social this past weekend, Trump said electric vehicles are a “hoax” and “all of these cars are going to be made in China.” Trump claims the EV pivot will destroy the US auto industry and kill jobs.
Some autoworkers have expressed concerns about the EV transition. Trump spoke to non-union workers in Michigan on Wednesday and played up those fears.

Trump has pledged to reverse the Environmental Protection Agency’s ambitious new car pollution rules that could require electric vehicles to account for up to two-thirds of new cars sold in the US by 2032. And a Trump presidency could also make it more difficult for consumers to take advantage of the $7,500 tax credit for EVs contained in the Inflation Reduction Act and turn off billions of dollars in grants and loan guarantees the Biden administration has given to companies to boost EV technology.
Trump’s proposals could undermine US companies’ EV investments and hand over control of an increasingly EV future to foreign manufacturers.
Anger in UK
Developments in the UK offer a preview to how US automakers may oppose any efforts by Trump to slow the transition to EVs.
The UK government said last week it would delay a ban on the sale of new gas and diesel cars by five years, from 2030 to 2035, angering automakers who warned the move would undermine the industry’s efforts to switch to electric vehicles.
“We are going to ease the transition to electric vehicles,” said UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak.
But automakers said the delay would cause confusion.
“Our business needs three things from the UK government: ambition, commitment, and consistency. A relaxation of 2030 would undermine all three,” Ford UK chair Lisa Brankin said in a statement.
Stellantis, which owns the Fiat, Peugeot and Citroën brands, echoed the call for clarity and said it was committed to achieving 100% zero emission new car and van sales in the UK by the end of the decade.
Oct 2, 2023 12:16
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