DETROIT - US President Joe Biden took a victory lap on Wednesday at the Detroit auto show as he highlighted automakers' electric-vehicle push, including billions of dollars in investments in battery plants, on the back of new government support.
Self-declared "car guy" Mr Biden climbed into a silver electric Cadillac SUV and an orange Corvette, glad-handed with the industry's union workers and declared the city, the birthplace of the auto industry, was making a comeback.
Detroit's auto show is the largest in North America and a key stop on Democrat Biden's stepped-up midterm election travel agenda, as he showcases new laws to fund infrastructure and give consumers grants to buy EVs.
"We're choosing to build a better America, an America that is confronting the climate crisis, with America's workers leading the way," Mr Biden said in a speech at the show.
The president was introduced by local auto union worker Ryan Buchalski, who said the president was "kicking ass for the working class."
Mr Biden announced the approval of the first US$900 million (S$1.26 billion) in US funding to build EV charging stations in 35 states, part of a US$1 trillion infrastructure law approved last November.
When he served as vice-president in the Obama administration, Mr Biden attended the Detroit auto show as a strong advocate of the 2008-09 bailouts of General Motors Co and Chrysler, which is now part of Stellantis NV.
Now Detroit's Big Three automakers - GM, Ford Motor Co and Chrysler - are showing off new EVs at the car show, as Congress and Mr Biden pledge tens of billions of dollars in loans, manufacturing and consumer tax credits and grants to speed the transition away from internal combustion vehicles to cleaner EVs.
The "great American Road Trip is going to be fully electrified," Mr Biden declared.
In August 2021, Mr Biden set a goal that EVs or plug-in hybrid vehicles represent 50 per cent of all US new vehicle sales by 2030.
The Detroit Three back the nonbinding goal of 50 per cent, but Tesla Inc dominates the US electric vehicle market and outsells the Detroit automakers combined on EVs.
US sales of EVs jumped 83 per cent last year, but represent a meagre 3 per cent of the market, and gasoline-powered trucks were well-represented at the exhibition.
White House National Climate Adviser Ali Zaidi told Reuters that automakers and battery firms in 2022 announced "US$13 billion into EV manufacturing" as they accelerate "the pace of their investment into capital projects here in the United States."
In July, the US Energy Department said it plans to lend Ultium Cells LLC, a joint venture of GM and LG Energy Solution , US$2.5 billion to help finance construction of new lithium-ion battery cell manufacturing facilities.
Honda Motor Co Ltd recently announced it will build a new US$4.4 billion lithium-ion battery plant for US EVs with Korean battery supplier LG Energy Solution Ltd.
Toyota Motor Corp said it will boost its planned investment in a new US battery plant from US$1.29 billion to US$3.8 billion.
GM and LG Energy Solution in August began production at their US$2.3 billion joint-venture battery production plant in Ohio. The companies are considering a site in New Carlisle, Indiana, for a fourth US battery cell manufacturing plant expected to cost around US$2.4 billion.
"I believe we can own the future of the automobile market. I believe we can own the future of manufacturing," Mr Biden said. "American manufacturing is back. Detroit is back. America's back, and folks, we're proving it's never, ever, ever a good bet to bet against the American people." REUTERS