White House Invites Auto Execs to Endorse Build Back Better

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky

The White House has made plans to host American business executives — including numerous CEOs tied to the automotive sector — in an effort to gain support for the stalled Build Back Better agenda. The meeting is scheduled to take place today, with President Joe Biden and company hoping to convince them to get behind the (revised) $1.75 trillion spending bill after it passed in the House but never made it through the Senate.

Seats have already been reserved for General Motors CEO Mary Barra, Ford CEO Jim Farley, and Cummins CEO Tom Linebarger. The rest are going to heads of manufacturing and technology companies, with a few noteworthy outliers. For example, the Biden administration has also invited the president of the Teachers Insurance and Annuity Association of America and the CEO of Siemens (a multinational entity that’s not based in the United States). Based on earlier statements from White House press secretary Jen Psaki, the meetings will take place in-person, bucking the Biden administration’s trend of hosting virtual events.

“We have an event tomorrow on Build Back Better where there will be a number of CEOs here,” she told the press on Tuesday.

While Build Back Better is a sweeping proposal aimed at bolstering infrastructure, it includes numerous provisions that have nothing to do with maintaining bridges, highways, and railroads. One of the reasons it failed to pass in the Senate was because many legislators claimed it was too broad. BBB would have advanced sweeping changes in the tax code, set aside $400 billion for universal pre-schooling, allocated $165 billion to expand Medicare and the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare), $150 billion for home care programs, and another $150 billion to build public housing in suburban America.

But the biggest expense has to be the over $500 billion that’s been earmarked for “climate justice.” Based around a goal to halve U.S. carbon emissions by 2030 and swiftly encourage the adoption of electric vehicles, the Biden administration wants to offer sizable tax credits to companies who are willing to greenify the nation in a manner of its choosing. However, this included provisions that would have given unionized automakers preferential treatment, encouraging the rest to accuse the plan of being politically motivated.

Build Back Batter would have raised the current EV tax credit scheme from $7,500 to $12,500 for domestically manufactured vehicles using union labor. It also carved out a plan to create an additional $4,000 credit for new vehicles and moved to reset existing 200,000 vehicle quotas that would have once again made GM and Tesla eligible.

But Tesla wasn’t interested in continued government handouts, with CEO Elon Musk suggesting that it was time for EVs to stand on their own. He likewise criticized the plan for being wasteful and showing favoritism to union-backed automakers. The company was joined by other manufacturers, with Toyota going so far as to launch an advertising campaign criticizing Build Back Better’s handling of the automotive industry. There were also concerns that there was no sunset clause for the proposed tax credit plot, potentially making BBB far more expensive than the initial estimates.

The money aspect became one of the biggest sticking points for Congress, with dissenting members of the Senate frequently fretting about untethered government spending exacerbating inflation. However Build Back Better already appears to have allies at Ford and General Motors, which is undoubtedly why their CEOs are visiting the White House today.

“General Motors is grateful for the opportunity to join the discussion,” a spokesperson from GM told Automotive News. “The meeting is a good opportunity to reinforce GM’s policy priorities particularly as it relates to electric vehicles and building out our U.S. supply chain as we continue to move towards an all-electric future.”

From AN:

Biden on Tuesday touted General Motors’ announcement of a $7 billion investment in Michigan, adding 4,000 jobs and boosting EV and battery manufacturing. GM CEO Mary Barra is expected to be among the CEOs in attendance alongn [sic] with Ford CEO Jim Farley. the White House said.

Farley, in a statement released by Ford, said: “Strengthened consumer incentives will help get more drivers behind the wheels of EVs and help American workers lead the global transition to zero-emissions transportation. I’m looking forward to heading to Washington tomorrow to meet with President Biden and talk about how we can make this plan a reality.”

Neither Tesla (the world’s largest manufacturer of EVs by volume) nor Stellantis appears to have been invited to the meeting. While we can only speculate as to why, Elon Musk’s opposition to BBB and unionization likely played an important factor.

As for the bill itself, it’s clear that it is not been gaining in popularity among American voters in recent months. But the fact that the White House is currently seeking business allies proves that it’s not giving up just yet. Earlier in the week, Biden even suggested that the all-important (and most expensive) climate portion of Build Back Better might be able to pass the House and Senate by itself if separated from the other social programs.

“I think we can break the package up, get as much as we can now and come back and fight for the rest of it,” he said.

[Image: Orhan Cam/Shutterstock]

Matt Posky
Matt Posky

A staunch consumer advocate tracking industry trends and regulation. Before joining TTAC, Matt spent a decade working for marketing and research firms based in NYC. Clients included several of the world’s largest automakers, global tire brands, and aftermarket part suppliers. Dissatisfied with the corporate world and resentful of having to wear suits everyday, he pivoted to writing about cars. Since then, that man has become an ardent supporter of the right-to-repair movement, been interviewed on the auto industry by national radio broadcasts, driven more rental cars than anyone ever should, participated in amateur rallying events, and received the requisite minimum training as sanctioned by the SCCA. Handy with a wrench, Matt grew up surrounded by Detroit auto workers and managed to get a pizza delivery job before he was legally eligible. He later found himself driving box trucks through Manhattan, guaranteeing future sympathy for actual truckers. He continues to conduct research pertaining to the automotive sector as an independent contractor and has since moved back to his native Michigan, closer to where the cars are born. A contrarian, Matt claims to prefer understeer — stating that front and all-wheel drive vehicles cater best to his driving style.

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5 of 61 comments
  • ToolGuy "and leaves auto dealers feeling troubled" ...well this is terrible. Won't someone think of the privileged swindlers??
  • ToolGuy "Selling as I got a new car and don't need an extra." ...Well that depends on what new car you chose, doesn't it? 😉
  • El scotto The days of "Be American, buy America" are long gone. Then there's the mental gymnastics of "is a Subaru made in Lafayette, IN more American than something from gm or Ford made in Mexico?" Lastly, it gets down to people's wallets; something cheap on Amazon or Temu will outsell its costlier American-made item. Price not Patriotism sells most items. One caveat: any US candidate should have all of his/her goods made in the USA.
  • FreedMike Well, here's my roster of car purchases since 1981: Three VWsTwo Mazdas (one being a Mercury Tracer, full disclosure)One AudiOne FordOne BuickOne HondaOne Volvo I think I hear Lee Greenwood in the background... In all seriousness, I'd have bought more American cars had they made more of the kinds of cars I like (smaller, performance-oriented).
  • Kwik_Shift_Pro4X I'll gladly support the least "woke" and the most Japanese auto company out there.