Weeks after President Joe Biden finally said the word “Tesla” in public, Elon Musk is still convinced the president is ignoring him—yet promises to behave if the White House ever extends an invitation.
In an email exchange with CNBC, the outspoken CEO of Tesla repeated his stance that the Biden administration is ignoring the achievements of the electric-car maker in favor of more established auto manufacturers.
“Biden has pointedly ignored Tesla at every turn and falsely stated to the public that GM leads the electric car industry,” says Musk. “Tesla produced over 300,000 electric vehicles last quarter, and GM produced 26.”
Last year GM halted production of its electric vehicles, such as the Chevrolet Bolt, owing to battery defects. Production is expected to restart on April 4, according to the Detroit News.
Musk corresponded with CNBC following reports that the Tesla CEO would not be included in future meetings between the administration and corporate leaders.
When asked if administration officials should worry that he’d embarrass the president if invited to a White House event, Musk said, “They have nothing to worry about…I would do the right thing.”
The White House’s apparent indifference to Tesla has been a sticking point for the CEO and his fans for months. Musk has complained that Biden tends to tout long-established automakers like General Motors and Ford Motor as the future of American car manufacturing—not Tesla.
After an August White House meeting of carmakers—which excluded Tesla—Musk claimed the administration was “not the friendliest” and “controlled by the unions.”
In January, Musk responded to an official White House video featuring GM CEO Mary Barra to again complain that Tesla was being left out.
In a social media campaign in February, Tesla fans urged Biden to mention the electric vehicle company by name.
Biden did so in prepared remarks on Feb. 8, calling Tesla “our nation’s largest electric vehicle manufacturer.” In a statement to CNBC on Tuesday, the White House called Tesla “a big part of why the whole industry now knows EVs are the future.”
Still, the relationship between the carmaker and the administration seems to be frosty at best.
Tesla’s nonunionized workforce is a major sticking point for the Biden administration and congressional Democrats. Tesla has been accused of suppressing union activities at the car manufacturer’s plants, and Musk was even ordered to delete a tweet threatening to take away stock options from employees who unionized.
Musk is a frequent critic of the Biden administration’s policies. In December, Musk complained at the Wall Street Journal’s CEO Council summit that Biden’s Build Back Better plan included “unnecessary” investment in electric charging stations and suggested the U.S. government “get rid of all subsidies.”
The Tesla CEO’s dismissal of subsidies seemed to irritate the White House, with a spokesperson telling CNBC on Tuesday that Tesla “benefited greatly from past EV tax credits.”
Musk has also punched back at regulators who have probed the company, recently calling the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration the “fun police” for forcing the company to disable a “Boombox” feature that would have allowed cars to play music through external speakers.
Musk’s lawyers have argued that the CEO’s public criticism of the government has elicited undue federal scrutiny. In a Feb. 17 court filing, Tesla attorney Alex Spiro argued that the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission was investigating Tesla and Musk because the Tesla CEO is “an outspoken critic of the government.” The SEC was trying to “chill” Musk’s right to free expression, Spiro argued.
Musk is subject to a settlement with the SEC regarding a tweet he published that teased the possibility of Tesla going private. According to the settlement, a Tesla lawyer must review Musk tweets that pertain to company interests. The SEC has reportedly warned Tesla for failing to abide by the terms of settlement.
At times, Musk has also taunted Biden personally. When a Twitter user asked why Biden had failed to congratulate SpaceX on its first all-civilian flight crew, Musk responded, “He’s still sleeping.”
Musk has gone after other heads of state, tweeting—and later deleting—a meme comparing Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to Adolf Hitler amid the “Freedom Convoy” protests.
When promising to behave at a possible White House meeting, Musk wasn’t above a bit of levity. Musk’s pledge to “do the right thing” was actually his second answer to CNBC’s question on whether the Tesla CEO might embarrass the president.
The first? Two “roll on the floor laughing” emojis.
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