There’s no real mystery behind Biden’s antipathy toward Tesla, according to a person familiar with the president’s thinking. The president has long enjoyed the support of unions in his political campaigns, including the UAW.
And while Tesla employees enjoy generous pay and benefits including equity in the car maker, Musk is hostile toward unions and company workers aren’t organized. The UAW has made little headway in attempts to organize Tesla's plant in Fremont, Calif., which employs about 10,000 people.
“Fighting for their right to steal money from workers!” Musk tweeted Nov. 10 in reply to news about an ongoing federal corruption investigation of UAW officials.
Within Tesla, there is a feeling among some executives that all of this is just politics: Biden will never win Texas, where Musk now lives, while Michigan -- home to Ford and GM -- and UAW support is key to Democratic victories both in upcoming midterm elections and in 2024.
Even some Biden aides say they wish the boss would warm to Musk’s company. “Bums me out as a satisfied Tesla owner,” one said. The White House officials who spoke for this story all asked not to be identified because of the sensitivity of the issue.
Last fall, after a White House event promoting electric vehicles that excluded Tesla, Musk said Biden is “biased” against the company and said his administration “seems to be controlled by unions.”
Musk has also belittled a key Biden policy: the president’s proposal to reinstate a $7,500-per-car tax credit for EVs and eliminate a cap on the number of vehicles from any one manufacturer that are eligible for the credit. Tesla hit the limit on the original EV tax credit in 2018.
‘Can this whole bill’
Biden’s proposal, though, comes with an anti-Tesla twist: consumers would be eligible for an extra $4,500 if they buy an EV assembled by union workers.
“Honestly, I would just can this whole bill,” Musk said of Biden’s “Build Back Better” legislation in December, shortly before U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, a key West Virginia centrist Democrat, killed the measure by withdrawing his support.
“Tesla has done extraordinary things for electric vehicles and that’s a big part of why the whole industry now knows EVs are the future,” White House spokeswoman Emilie Simons said in a statement to Bloomberg News.
She noted that Tesla has “benefited greatly” from EV tax credits in the past. “But, unfortunately, their CEO has suggested an opposition to new EV tax credits,” she said, without using Musk’s name.
Simons said the Thursday event at the White House was for business leaders who support Build Back Better. GM’s Barra recently became chair of the Business Roundtable, a lobby group in Washington that, like Musk, opposes Build Back Better. But Barra has said she personally supports the measure.
Musk didn’t respond to an email requesting comment for this story.
Tesla, founded in 2003, makes fully electric vehicles at its factories in California and Shanghai. The company moved its corporate headquarters last year from Palo Alto, California, to Austin, Texas, where it has completed a new factory that’s larger than the Pentagon.
Other purely EV companies, including Lucid Group Inc. and Amazon-backed Rivian Automotive Inc. are also non-union -- and Biden hasn’t said anything about them, either, according to a search of his public remarks. Like Tesla workers, employees at Lucid and Rivian also enjoy stock options as part of their compensation packages.