US President Joe Biden was at the inauguration of GM’s Factory Zero yesterday, the company’s first electric vehicle factory, and he gave a speech in which he gave credit to GM CEO Mary Barra for “electrifying the entire auto industry.”

Fact check: Biden is dead wrong about that.

Biden gave a long speech, which you can watch below, about the infrastructure bill that he just signed earlier this week.

Part of the bill includes a $7.5 billion investment in electric vehicles and Biden addressed the electrification of the auto industry in his speech.

A segment of the speech stood out because Biden somehow thought it would be a good idea to give Mary Barra, CEO of GM, credit for “electrifying the entire automobile industry.”

If you know anything about the auto industry, you’d think that this is a joke, but Biden literally followed up by adding that he is “serious.” As if there was laugh track.

Here’s the relevant part of the speech:

Mary, I can remember talking to you way back in January about the need for America to lead in electric vehicles. And I can remember your dramatic announcement that by 2035, GM would be 100% electric. 

You changed the whole story, Mary, wherever — [applause] — wherever you are.  There you are.  You did, Mary.  You electrified the entire automobile industry. I’m serious. You led — and it matters — in drastically improving the climate by reducing hundreds of millions of barrels of oil that will not be used when we’re all electric.

You know, up until now, China has been leading in this race, but that’s about to change.

Fact-check time

Biden is a politician, and if he was standing in a Ford factory he would have given Jim Farley credit for electrifying the industry, even though the guy has been at the head of Ford for barely a year.

But I think it’s worth correcting the president here because as someone passionate about electrifying the auto industry, I don’t think Barra deserves any credit whatsoever.

Barra has been at the head of GM for eight years now, and I can hold up one finger to quantify the number of all-electric vehicles the automaker brought to market under her reign: the Chevy Bolt EV.

The Chevy Bolt EV was a program that started in 2012 – over a year before she took over.

She not only hasn’t done anything significant to electrify the auto industry, but she literally didn’t do anything to add another electric vehicle on the road during that time – not even one.

Maybe you can count the Chevy Bolt EUV, but that’s basically the same car.

Today, you can go to the LA Auto Show in Los Angeles, where Chevrolet has a massive booth in which you will find a grand total of zero electric vehicles:

It’s supposed to represent the company “leading the industry in electrification,” yet it’s filled with gas-guzzling vehicles.

Now Biden appears to give Barra credit for her announcement that GM is going “all-electric by 2035.”

The only way that would be “leading” is if that was actually ahead of other automakers or if other automakers, like Tesla, haven’t achieved being all-electric, which they did.

If you want to give someone credit, give it to Tesla and Elon Musk, but that’s not even the point.

You also have to look at the context in which GM made that announcement.

You can’t forget that before Biden was elected, GM backed Donald Trump’s effort to curtail California’s right to implement stricter emission standards that forced automakers like GM to produce more electric vehicles.

GM was literally suing the state to slow down EV adoption.

They only dropped out of the lawsuit after Trump lost the election (don’t tell him) and it became clear that the legal effort would go nowhere.

If anything, Biden deserves more credit than Barra on that front, because who knows what would have happened if Trump would have won.

After that, GM negotiated with the Biden administration instead, and it became clear where the wind was blowing.

If the US was going to renew its effort to electrify the auto industry, GM was going to need to be a part of it.

So they negotiated themselves a sweet deal that would give them more government support for every EV they produce over any other automakers by adding a $4,500 bonus for electric cars produced in US union factories.

With that said, GM is now finally going to bring more electric vehicles to market – starting with the Hummer EV that is going to be produced at Factory Zero, where Biden made his speech.

That’s good. But let me be clear: GM is launching these new electric vehicles in an attempt to survive after a series of horrific decisions. Not to lead in electrification.

If the company wanted to be a leader, it would commit to only launching new vehicles that are 100% electric going forward and phase out all internal combustion engine production.

It’s not doing that. It still believes that the internal combustion engine is going to be an important part of its business for the next 14 years, and that’s a mistake.

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Fred Lambert

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