If there’s anything that’ll get my stomach into a twist, it’s the government talking about the merits of reducing people’s ability to own things. Fortunately, the 36-hour flu I just experienced made me nigh-invulnerable and someone had forwarded me the latest on what U.K. Parliamentary Under-Secretary for the Department for Transport Trudy Harrison had to say about personal vehicle ownership. She’s very keen on public transpiration but not so interested in the plebian masses having access to their own, individual modes of transport.
Earlier this month, she told a virtual audience at shared transport charity CoMoUK that the United Kingdom needed to move away from “20th-century thinking centered around private vehicle ownership and towards greater flexibility, with personal choice and low carbon shared transport.”
We’ve got good news for people who want fewer choices in the type of cars they’ll be able to purchase in the future.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has finalized strict new vehicle emissions requirements through 2026 that would reverse the current standards set by the agency under former President Donald Trump. The Trump administration rolled back some of the long-term environmental policies implemented under the Obama administration. However, the Biden administration has said its biggest focus will be on addressing climate issues by dissolving those policies restoring the targets established when Barack Obama was still in the White House. The agency released some proposals in August outlining the general path it would be taking. But the details dropped by EPA Administrator Michael Regan on Monday vastly exceed those Obama metrics serving as a benchmark.
General Motors CEO Mary Barra has chimed in on the weeklong open discussion about whether or not it’s a good idea for America to embrace the Biden administration’s EV tax credit plan, which just so happens to be deeply intertwined with the Build Back Better Act’s cavalcade of federal initiatives.
As we’ve already covered the topic more than once, we’ll avoid the recap and simply post the relevant links where Tesla CEO Elon Musk recommended pitching the entire bill into the trash and Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg went to bat for the White House by suggesting the updated tax scheme was a necessity for electrification to thrive. Barra opted to go with the latter take, stating that it could help accelerate EV adoption.
On Wednesday, President Joe Biden signed an executive order committing the United States to the acquisition of only zero-emission vehicles by 2035 for the federal vehicle fleet.
This is totally in line with the administration’s stated desire to focus on transitioning the nation toward renewable energy sources while advancing electric vehicle adoption rates. But the event was curiously not celebrated with the applicable fanfare. Biden signed the document without media there to capture the moment and reporters failed to ask about it during a press event on the White House lawn later in the day. Were it not for an official fact sheet issued by the administration later in the day, we may never have known there even was a signing.
U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg has responded to criticisms Elon Musk has made about the Biden administration’s plan for electric vehicle subsidies.
The Tesla CEO believes the Obama-era EV tax credits were more than sufficient, with his own company serving as physical proof, and suggested the entire Build Back Better Act be tossed into the toilet. But Secretary Buttigieg said it was a necessary item if the United States hoped to advance electrification, swiftly transition away from combustion vehicles, and escape the perils of climate change (formerly known as global warming).
Elon Musk has continued bashing the Biden administration’s tax credit legislation designed to spur electric vehicle adoption, this time suggesting that the entire bill be scrapped. Included as part of the Build Back Better Act that’s focused on addressing various social, infrastructure, and climate issues, Musk suggested the entire text simply be done away.
“Honestly, I would just can this whole bill,” he stated at The Wall Street Journal’s CEO Council Summit, appearing remotely from Tesla’s construction site in Austin, Texas.
Despite the semiconductor shortage having encouraged the automotive sector to repeatedly idle factories, word on the ground is that things are becoming more stable. Companies are seeing less production downtime overall and workers are reporting more reliable working conditions across the board. However, several automakers have continued to express concerns (e.g. Volvo), alleging that chip shortages could stretch deep into 2022, while the U.S. government ponders how to advance chip production in-country and become less dependent on Asian suppliers.
Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo has been touring Michigan, meeting with union members and industry heads, and plans to urge Congress to move on a $52 billion in funding bill aimed at boosting domestic production. We’ve questioned the efficacy of the CHIPS Act before, primarily in relation to how the subsidies would be allocated. But there are new concerns that the plan will mimic the Biden administration’s EV subsidies by spending heaps of taxpayer money and giving union-backed organizations a larger cut.
There’s an initiative to convince Congress to pass legislation that would pour billions of dollars onto chip manufacturers at play that’s being led by Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer. A letter, signed by nine other governors, was issued asking like-minded lawmakers to send $52 billion in economic aid so that the chip shortage so that the supply issues that have been plaguing various industries (including the automotive sector) can finally be resolved.
Backed by the U.S. Semiconductor Industry Association (SIA), the “CHIPS for America Act” is just one of several programs designed to use the National Defense Authorization Act to create federal funding for chip suppliers. The governors (all of which are from states manufacturing automobiles) say they want a cash injection by the end of 2021 so that domestic chip manufacturing can build new factories right away. But SIA lobbyists are pressing for numerous plans that would result in extensive tax breaks and annual investments from the government that is all focused around the proposed CHIPS legislation and piggybacks on the recently passed U.S. Innovation and Competition Act (USICA).
Alright, let’s break this down.
Toyota Motor North America has already voiced its opposition to the proposed EV tax credit scheme tied to the the Democrats’ latest spending bill. This week, it has decided to expand its message by purchasing advertisements in national publications.
Starting Tuesday, Toyota will be launching an ad campaign intended to help bring Americans toward its side of the fence. While the automaker isn’t intrinsically offended by the government-backed incentivizing of electric vehicles, it has taken umbrage with the Biden administration’s insistence that consumers be issued an additional $4,500 incentive for purchasing union-made products. Though the reasoning should be obvious, since the company doesn’t have any unionized facilities in the U.S., the automaker is seeing growing support as the related legislation is stalled on Capitol Hill.
Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer has announced a plan to construct the Lake Michigan Electric Vehicle Circuit that would allow EV drivers to enjoy a scenic, coastal drive without being distracted by fears of range anxiety. Having recently returned from the Mitten state, I can say that its current charging infrastructure is about what you’d expect. You’re bound to find something in the urban hubs, likely with a little help from navigational apps. But the spaces between aren’t going to be of much help and the situation only worsens as you head north along the Eastern coastline where charging points are particularly sparse.
But it’s Lake Michigan that draws the most tourists in a given year, so Whitmer’s team has elected to plot the stations on the Western side of the state to encourage visitors. As a byproduct, leadership said this will also prove that the region is committed to electrification and serious about supporting the evolving automotive industry.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio made dirt bikes public enemy number one for traffic enforcement in 2021, citing road safety, cluttered sidewalks, unwanted noise, and air pollution as his primary reasoning. He’s even released videos where the city destroyed confiscated bikes to celebrate the initiative.
“Anyone out there who has an illegal dirt bike — don’t even think about it. Because the NYPD will find it and will crush it,” Mayor de Blasio proclaimed via Twitter earlier this month. “These dirt bikes do not belong in New York City. It’s against the law. Period. Dirt bikes are dangerous.”
The focus on two-wheeled transportation comes after city leadership announced there was a growing number of shootings and robberies tied to certain types of vehicles over the spring. Local outlets also covered an incident where a small child was struck by a dirt bike and placed into critical condition last July. But the actual qualifications for what NYC considers an “illegal dirt bike” are confusing. Numerous exemptions are made for electric scooters and about half of the bikes crushed in the mayor’s video are regular motorcycles. It seems nonsensical and only gets worse when you begin to ponder the consequences of banning some of the most affordable modes of transportation available to poor New Yorkers.
Despite the occasional media report claiming that the semiconductor shortage is nearly over, reality looks quite a bit different. Some manufacturers have managed to temporarily stabilize supply chains, even though others have continued announcing work stoppages as they run out of chips. Wait times for the electronic components have also increased by about 61 percent since the beginning of 2021. Meanwhile, a recent Kelly Blue Book survey had 48 percent of respondents saying they were going to postpone buying a new automobile until shortages end, prices come down, and they can actually find the vehicles they’re looking for. But even those that were willing to buy now expressed a surprising level of acceptance to abandon brand loyalty or their preferred body style just to get a fairer deal on an automobile.
With the United States fairing worse than other regions in regard to chip availability, the White House has been under pressure to solve the problem all year. Thus far, government strategy has focused on encouraging investments for new semiconductor production. But there’s a new gambit being proposed that would invoke a Cold War-era national security law that would force manufacturers to furnish information pertaining to semiconductor supply lines and chip sales.
Tesla CEO Elon Musk isn’t fond of the new electric-vehicle incentives being proposed by the United States Congress and recently stated as much over social media this week. He even went so far as to allege that the bill was lobbyists working on behalf of legacy automakers and the United Auto Workers, as it monetarily benefits domestic manufacturers with strong union ties above all others.
Truth be told, it’s kind of hard to respond to those claims with anything other than an affirmative nod. Due to his seemingly intentional manipulation of cryptocurrency and willingness to overpromise Tesla investors, I’m not the biggest fan of Musk. However, he’s getting support from other manufacturers and it’s pretty hard for your author to see any legislative scenario other than the one he’s supporting — especially since this is frequently how business is done on Capitol Hill.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has been doing a deep dive into Tesla’s Autopilot to determine if 765,000 vehicles from the 2014 model year onward are fit to be on the road. We’ve covered it on numerous occasions, with your author often making a plea for regulators not to harp on one company when the entire industry has been slinging advanced driving aids and distracting infotainment displays for years.
Apparently someone at the NHTSA either heard the blathering, or was at least of a similar mind, because the organization has expanded its investigation to include roughly a dozen other automakers.
With the Biden administration having announced that it would start requiring companies to vaccinate employees, automakers and UAW are finding themselves in a sticky situation. Unions had previously said they wanted to hold off on endorsing or opposing mandatory vaccinations until after they discussed things with the industry and their own members. Considering Joe Biden said he wouldn’t make vaccines mandatory less than 10 months ago, employers are getting caught with their pants around the proverbial ankles.
Automakers had previously been surveying white-collar workers to see what they wanted to do while upping on-site COVID restrictions, but operating under the impression that any hard decisions were likely a long way off and left entirely to their discretion. Now the Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration is planning a new standard that requires all employers with 100 (or more) employees to guarantee their workforce is fully vaccinated or require any unvaccinated workers to produce a negative test result on a minimum weekly basis.