The Biden Administration has issued its first official snub of Elon Musk and Tesla by refusing to invite it to the White House for a meeting with automobile manufacturers about the future of electric vehicles. Many industry watchers considered this odd, considering that Tesla is a leader in electric vehicles and set records for deliveries of electric vehicles, both in 2020 and in the first two quarters of 2021.
The White House has not issued a statement on its reasons for leaving Tesla out, but there has been plenty of chatter on it on Twitter. When asked about it, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said only, “I’m not sure.” Then he quickly changed the subject:
“And by the way, we’re also moving toward a future where this is all across the market. I don’t want there to be a perception that this is just a kind of luxury thing, or that this is just for cars that you use to zip around cities.”
Some commenters have proposed that the White House won’t talk to Tesla because it has pushed back against United Auto Workers (UAW), the biggest automakers’ union in the United States. UAW officials were spotted among the event’s participants.
Biden did credit the UAW for helping him get elected to Congress at the event, although he may have made a slight tongue slip regarding the time frame in which he was first elected during his comments:
Although competitors are starting to make inroads into the EV market and are scrambling to develop manufacturing capacity to support their respective electric vehicle models, Tesla still has a dominant market share in the EV market for now. Tesla Superchargers account for 25,000 out of the 100,000 electric car charging stations in the United States, though the company has recently indicated a willingness to open its Superchargers up for use by EV models that aren’t manufactured by Tesla. Tesla delivered 499,550 electric vehicles in 2020, 184,800 vehicles in Q1 2021, and 201,250 vehicles in Q2 2021.
Some commenters did suggest inviting President Biden to AI Day, which Tesla plans to hold on August 19. Strategically, though, it might be better to invite somebody in the Biden Administration who is more likely to comprehend the presentations and announcements that take place at AI Day. Tesla’s driver assist programs, Autopilot and Full Self-Driving, rely on an AI that is constantly improving with new data and “training” to become better able to independently navigate a Tesla vehicle.
Tesla’s driver assist programs can already navigate a parking lot, change lanes, and monitor for driver alertness. Most recently, the Autopilot pulled a Tesla vehicle over to the side of the road and activated the vehicle’s hazard lights when it detected that the driver had passed out. The driver was reportedly intoxicated at the time.
Is Biden’s snub of Tesla at this event a sign of tensions between Tesla and the U.S. government? The summit included major automakers like Ford, GM, and Stellantis, who said in a joint statement that they plan to collectively capture as much as 50% of the electric vehicle market within the next decade once they start ramping up production of their own models. Tesla simply wasn’t included at this event.