The election of Joe Biden as the 46th president of the United States promises a renewed effort to tighten up vehicle emissions/mileage regulations and encourage electric vehicle production, a shift in tone from the outgoing White House administration.
A more immediate concern for the president-elect: The global COVID-19 outbreak — which has killed more than 232,000 people in the U.S. since early this year and threatens to be even deadlier as winter approaches — and its effects over the auto industry and the economy at-large. According to a report on Tuesday by Politico, he is planning to create a task force of medical experts to tackle the virus.
Biden, 77, was projected the winner Saturday over Republican President Donald Trump, 74, by several news organizations in a tightly contested race. The former vice president has touted an ambitious clean-energy plan that could encourage a new wave of transportation propped up by federal investments in electric vehicles, infrastructure and other forward-looking technologies.
"Joe Biden knows that the auto industry is the heart of American manufacturing and essential to the future of our economy," a Biden campaign spokesperson said last month in a statement to Automotive News.
"During the Great Recession, he helped rescue the auto industry and saved more than 1 million auto jobs. As president, he'll create 1 million new jobs in the American auto industry, domestic auto supply chains and auto infrastructure," the spokesperson said.
An administration under Biden — Barack Obama's vice president — will likely embrace higher fuel-efficiency standards, accelerating the adoption of zero-emission vehicles, several industry experts told Automotive News last month. His administration is also unlikely to continue the high-stakes legal battle with California officials over the state's authority to restrict tailpipe emissions.
On the campaign trail, Biden's promises have also included investing in 500,000 EV charging stations as part of a $2 trillion infrastructure proposal. He has also proposed providing cash vouchers to consumers who trade in fossil fuel-powered vehicles for U.S.-made electric models. The plans could be a boon to automakers that are planning to unleash a large wave of electric vehicles on the U.S. market, though customer acceptance of them has thus far been slow.
Those ambitions could face a challenge in Congress. The House appeared to be on track to remain under Democratic control. The balance of power in the Senate, however, could be determined by runoff elections in January for both of Georgia's seats.
The GOP candidates are favored to win and help the party retain its majority. But if the Democrats prevail, there would be a 50-50 split — including the two Independents who caucus with them — giving the vice president tie-breaking power.
"The legislative things may be more tied to the Democrats' fortunes in ... the Senate versus who occupies the White House," Kristin Dziczek, vice president of industry, labor and economics at the Center for Automotive Research in Ann Arbor, Mich., told Automotive News last month.
As president, Biden might also remove some tariffs imposed by the Trump administration and work with allies to solve trade issues, including ongoing disputes between the U.S. and China. He has said he supports the changes negotiated in Trump's United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement — the replacement for NAFTA — as well as efforts to strengthen American manufacturing and bring back jobs.
Trump, who was elected president in 2016, would have likely continued down a path that favors less-stringent regulations on fuel economy and other regulatory matters. On trade, he would have likely continued to use tariffs as a negotiation tool.