Biden promotes EVs with tire-screeching Hummer test drive in Detroit

US President Joe Biden driving a Hummer EV during a tour at General Motors' electric vehicle assembly plant in Detroit on Nov 17, 2021. PHOTO: REUTERS
The test drive was part of a nationwide White House tour promoting the US$1 trillion (S$1.35 trillion) infrastructure Bill Mr Biden signed on Nov 15, 2021. PHOTO: AFP

DETROIT (REUTERS) - US President Joe Biden climbed behind the wheel of an electric Hummer sport utility vehicle on Wednesday (Nov 17) and sped off with a screeching of tires, in a test drive to tout billions of dollars in electric vehicle (EV) investment.

"Anyone wants to jump in the back, or on the roof?" Mr Biden asked reporters after taking a few laps at a General Motors plant. "These suckers are something else!"

The test drive at a GM electric vehicle assembly plant in Detroit, the largest city in Michigan, was part of a nationwide White House tour promoting the US$1 trillion (S$1.35 trillion) infrastructure Bill that Mr Biden, a Democrat, signed into law on Monday.

The law provides US$7.5 billion in funding to build the nation's electric vehicle charging network, investments the industry says will inspire more Americans to buy EVs and manufacturers to produce them. EV sales accounted for just 1.8 per cent of the new vehicle market in the United States in 2020.

In Detroit, Mr Biden lavished praise on Detroit's Big Three automakers, especially GM, for embracing EVs.

"In the auto industry, Detroit's leading the world in electric vehicles," Mr Biden said. He did not mention Tesla, the US automaker that accounts for nearly 80 per cent of US EV sales but is not unionised.

"You know, up until now, China has been leading in this race," Mr Biden said, speaking about EV manufacturing. That is about to change because of infrastructure law, he said.

Mr Biden's approval ratings have dropped as inflation increases, and Democrats are promoting the bipartisan Bill as proof the party can deliver in a divided America. Michigan is a key political battleground state in US elections.

The President also touted his proposed US$2 trillion social safety net spending plan being debated in Washington.

The Bill contains up to US$12,500 in tax credits for US-made EVs, including a US$4,500 credit for union-made vehicles.

The Bill is a key pillar of Mr Biden's domestic agenda, but progressive and moderate lawmakers in his party have not yet agreed on what exactly should be in it.

US President Joe Biden during a tour of the GM electric vehicle assembly plant in Detroit on Nov 17, 2021. PHOTO: AFP

Mr Biden stressed on Wednesday that the "Build Back Better" Bill would be paid for by increasing taxes on corporations, turning to GM chief executive Mary Barra to make his point that big companies are not paying as much as they should.

"Guess what? They ain't paying enough," Mr Biden said. "Sorry, Mary."

With Americans jittery over inflation and the prospect of a shortage of goods during the holiday season, Mr Biden said he had been assured by executives of Wal-Mart and Target that they would have plenty of items to buy despite supply chain woes.

"Their inventories are up and they'll have all the toys, food and other items that shoppers are looking for in the holiday season. That's going to happen," he said.

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