GM doesn’t care what Trump tweets

Source: Maxine Joselow, E&E News reporter • Posted: Monday, December 3, 2018

A General Motors Co. executive said today the company will forge ahead with electric vehicles, regardless of what President Trump tweets.

“We pay a lot of attention to what any president says,” Dan Turton, vice president of North American policy at GM, told an audience at an Edison Electric Institute conference in Washington, D.C. “But the reality is this electrification movement is going forward anyway.”

Turton’s remarks came after Trump said on Twitter this week that he would seek to cut GM’s subsidies, including for electric vehicles, in light of the company’s planned factory closures and layoffs (E&E News PM, Nov. 27).

“We are now looking at cutting all @GM subsidies, including for electric cars,” the president tweeted Tuesday. “General Motors made a big China bet years ago when they built plants there (and in Mexico) — don’t think that bet is going to pay off. I am here to protect America’s Workers!”

GM announced Monday its plans to close five U.S. factories and lay off 14,000 workers in North America. Trump’s tweet appeared to test the limits of his presidential power, and it remains unclear what specific actions are on the table.

Buyers of electric vehicles are currently eligible to receive a federal tax credit of up to $7,500. But the credit expires after a U.S. manufacturer has sold 200,000 eligible vehicles, and GM is close to hitting that cap.

When asked about GM’s long-term vision, Turton said the company is committed to getting more clean vehicles on the roads.

“General Motors has been pretty public in its view of the future, an all-electric future,” Turton said. “We saw that with the launch of the Volt years ago, and now with the launch of the Bolt.”

GM’s plan for downsizing, however, calls for ending production of the Volt, an award-winning hybrid electric vehicle (Greenwire, Nov. 27).

Rep. Paul Tonko (D-N.Y.), who previously served as president of the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, delivered the keynote address at the EEI conference.

“The future of transportation is electric,” Tonko said. “It may take some time to get us there, but that is clearly where we are headed.”

Tonko alluded to recent legislation from Democratic Sens. Jeff Merkley of Oregon and Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island. The “Zero-Emission Vehicles Act” would require that plug-in hybrid or electric vehicles account for 50 percent of all new car sales by 2030, and ultimately 100 percent by 2040 (E&E News PM, Nov. 28).

“It’s hard to fathom nearly all new light-duty vehicle sales being zero-emission vehicle sales by 2030,” Tonko said. “But that’s the level of ambition we need to be striving for.”

The legislation from Merkley and Whitehouse is unlikely to pass in the next Congress, with Republicans retaining control of the Senate and the White House. Yet Tonko was surprisingly optimistic about the potential for bipartisan backing of electric vehicle measures.

“They aren’t the most attention-grabbing solutions, but they are important policies that will make a difference,” he said. “Perhaps most importantly, they can be passed during a divided government.”