May 18, 2021
Joe Biden Ford Electric Vehicle Center Speech Transcript May 18
President Joe Biden toured the Ford electric vehicle center in Michigan on May 18, 2021. Read the transcript of his speech remarks here.
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President Joe Biden: (11:31)
My name is Joe Biden, and I’m a car guy. Please sit down. I got through high school, college, and law school because my dad ran an agency, and I’m delighted to be here. I want to say something else upfront. I’m standing here because about 180 years ago, when I first got elected to the Senate, Gov, the UAW elected me. We used to have the highest percentage of auto workers in any state in the nation, because we had a small workforce and two giant plants, plus Mopar and a few other things going on. So I want to thank you.
President Joe Biden: (12:21)
Look, and I want to thank a good friend of mine, Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer. As my mother would say, Gretchen, God love you, dear. You’ve got a backbone like a ramrod, you’ve got a brain as big as anybody in the business, and you are so honorable. It’s a delight to know you and anything I can do, as I’ve said to you before I’ll come campaign for you or against you, whichever will help the most.
President Joe Biden: (12:54)
I want to thank Angela. We were talking backstage, backstage, yeah, on the other side of the truck. I want to thank her very much for being so gracious. Rory, I know you’re new to the labor movement, but you’re doing a pretty good job. Where is Rory? Rory, thank you, pal. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you, and everyone at the UAW for being the best auto workers in the world. I want to thank Bill Ford and Jim Farley for hosting us and investing in our workers and in our country.
President Joe Biden: (13:28)
We’re at a great inflection point in American history. How we handle the next 4 to 10 years is going to determine where we’re going to be 30, 40, 50 years from now. It’s one of those moments in American history. This is an incredible facility. Representative Debbie Dingell, another dear friend.=, I know John’s looking down and he’s saying, “We’re finally getting it done, huh? You’re getting it done.” Representative Dan Kildee is a good friend, Representative Brenda Lawrence, and by the way, be careful what you say to Representative Slotkin. She knows more than you. They may be watching you. Where are you? I tease her all the time. She’s a great, great, great addition to the Congress.
President Joe Biden: (14:16)
Rashida Tlaib, where’s Rashida? I tell you what, Rashida, I want to say to you that I admire your intellect, I admire your passion, and I admire your concern for so many other people. From my heart, I pray that your grandma and family are well. I promise you I’m going to everything to see that they are on the West Bank. You’re a fighter, and God thank you for being a fighter.
President Joe Biden: (14:49)
Andy Levin, I know a lot of Levins, and Haley Stevens, I thank you both as well and also want to thank Mayor Jim O’Reilly of Dearborn for the passport into the city. Thank you, Mr. Mayor, and my buddy Mike Duggan. He is my mayor. I was sitting one day in the Oval with Barack Obama, President Obama, when I was vice president, and he looked at me like it was just something off [inaudible 00:15:14]. He said, “By the way, I want you to go fix Detroit.” I said, “Say that again. What am I going to do?” He said, “You can get anybody in the government to go with you. You just do it.” First call I made was this guy. You brought it off its knees. You brought it back. You’re a great mayor, and you’re a great friend. You’ve got a lot of courage. All right. Thank you.
President Joe Biden: (15:39)
Two great friends, Debbie Stabenow and Derek Peters, who couldn’t be here today because they’re back fighting like hell, fighting for this industry and the people that stayed and for labor. Labor industry, federal, state, and local leaders all together, that’s America at its best. That’s what I so admire about what Bill Ford’s doing here. So everything that these workers, this historic complex, and the state represent is something that I hope gets modeled around the country. It’s about respect. It’s about dignity, the dignity of work.
President Joe Biden: (16:14)
My dad used to say, “Joey,” and I swear to God when he left Scranton when Cole died, my dad was not a … He was a salesperson. He wasn’t a coal miner. My great grandpop was, but he used to say when he moved to Delaware, he had to leave because there were no jobs, and left us with our grandpop for a little over a year. He commuted back and forth from Wilmington, Delaware to Scranton on the weekends. When we got back down to Wilmington, he used to say to all of us, and I guess then about … Well, I was going into third grade, and he’d say, “Joey, remember, I mean this sincerely. A job is about a lot more than a paycheck. It’s about your dignity. It’s about respect. It’s about your place in the community. I really mean this, and it’s about being able to look your kid in the eye and say, ‘Honey, it’s going to be okay. It’s going to be okay.'”
President Joe Biden: (17:09)
It’s not labor. It’s union, because what you allow people to do is hold their heads up, make a decent living, and have pride in what they do, pride in what you build, pride in what you give this nation. I wanted to be here today, the day before you unveil the next generation of America’s best-selling vehicle to the entire world to thank you. Thank you for showing how we win the competition of the 21st century, how the future is going to be made. Well, it’s going to be made here in America, made in America.
President Joe Biden: (17:44)
I have to say this brings me home. For more than 30 years, my dad, who moved to Delaware, managed automobile dealerships in Delaware, including a Ford dealership. Man, did I like that ’57 Ford Fairlane. Oh, boy. It ain’t got nothing on an F-150, but all kidding aside, that’s what got me through school. I doubt it would ever contribute $50 billion, $50 billion to support about 500,000 American jobs, that 1-50, half the 1 million American jobs for supports overall, like the 150 series.
President Joe Biden: (18:39)
I just got a tour of the groundbreaking electric vehicle center here along with UAW workers, and they showed me the technology they’re using to build this first-ever fully electric F-150. I was able to sit in it, quite frankly. They let me see it, so I apologize to you that won’t see it until tomorrow. You’re going to like it. I’d sure like to drive it. I wonder whether or not I can lose the Secret Service and go out to the track, but y’all think I’m kidding, don’t you? The press knows I’m not.
President Joe Biden: (19:18)
Look, the future of the auto industry is electric. There’s no turning back, and, as Rory says, the American auto industry is at a crossroad. The real question is whether we’ll lead or we’ll fall behind in the race to the future or whether we’ll build these vehicles and the batteries that go in them here in the United States or rely on other countries or whether the jobs to build these vehicles and batteries are good-paying union jobs with benefits, jobs that will sustain and grow the middle class. Right now, China is leading in this race. Make no bones about it. It’s a fact. We used to invest more in research and development than any country in the world.
President Joe Biden: (20:03)
More research and development than any country in the world, and China was number eight. Or excuse me, number nine. We now are number eight and China’s number one. Can’t let that be sustained. The future is going to be determined by the best minds in the world, by those who break through new barriers. You know, it has China, the largest, fastest growing electric vehicle market in the world. The key part of an electric vehicle is the battery. Right now, 80% of the manufacturing capacity of those batteries is done in China, so not the battery for the F-150. We went down to Georgia and took care of that. Allows them to corner the market on the supplies and raw materials for those batteries, importing almost all the lithium, 90%, that comes from countries from like Australia, which lead the world in mining these kinds of critical materials.
President Joe Biden: (21:21)
And here’s the deal. It’s not that China’s battery technology is that much more innovative than anyone else’s. Remember our national labs in the United States, our universities, our automakers, led in the development of this technology. But today, China has a bigger manufacturing scale than all other countries, and they’re using that scale to make these batteries not just in China, but they’re making them in Germany and in Mexico, and now exporting those electric vehicles around the world with sights on the American market. And they think they’re going to win, but I got news for them. They will not win this race. We can’t let them. We have to move fast, and that’s what you’re doing here.
President Joe Biden: (22:11)
When President Obama and I, when Barack and I were in office, that was what we were going to do. Remember 2009? The auto industry was flat on its back. I remember I got criticized by the press because I was the auto guy pushing. Well, guess what? We were told that we’d never be able to sell American-made cars at the same rate as before, but we didn’t listen. We bet on you, the American auto worker. We extended a lifeline and we stepped up, saved more than a million jobs, work in the auto industry. We set fuel efficiency standards, provided incentives for folks to buy fuel efficient vehicles. And through the Recovery Act, we made the largest investment in clean energy and battery technology ever. And the big three emerged in the crisis in a position to sell millions of vehicles made right here in the USA.
President Joe Biden: (23:07)
But then the previous administration came in office. They rolled back the standards we set, rollbacks that the Ford Motor Company opposed. Despite bipartisan support for consumer incentives, they let the federal tax credit expire, penalizing auto workers for selling the most electric vehicles at the time. They announced Infrastructure Week, and they announced it and announced it and announced it and announced it every week for four years and didn’t do a damn thing. They didn’t get the job done.
President Joe Biden: (23:43)
Folks, the rest of the world is moving fast. They’re moving ahead. They’re not waiting for the United States of America. Government, labor, industry, working together have to step up, and we have a playbook that’ll work. We’re going to set a new pace for electric vehicles. That means reversion of previous administration’s shortsighted rollback of vehicle emissions and efficiency standards, setting strong, clear targets where we need to go.
President Joe Biden: (24:21)
It means passing the American Jobs Plan to do three things. One, transform our infrastructure. Our infrastructure is ranked like 38 in the world. It’s the United States of America, for God’s sake. We’re going to put Americans to work modernizing our roads, our highways, our ports, our airports, rails and transit systems. That includes putting IBW members and the union workers to work installing 50,000 charging stations along our roads and highways, our homes and our apartments. The IBW is ready to do it and they can.
President Joe Biden: (25:02)
Two, we’re going to boost our manufacturing capacity. That’s why the American Jobs Plan invest in new and retooled union facilities, grants to kickstart new battery and parts production, loans and tax credits to boost manufacturing of these clean vehicles. It also makes the largest investment in research and development in generations. That’s going to help innovate, manufacture, and build supply chains for batteries and semiconductors and small computer chips that make electric trucks and cars go, to be even more reliant than they are now. It matters. The little things matter.
President Joe Biden: (25:48)
We saw last night the United States Senate voted overwhelmingly to begin work on part of the bill that I’ve been pushing to strengthen our innovation and infrastructure by investing in research and development in manufacturing. I don’t remember the exact number, but it was pretty high. I think it was 83 to something in a bipartisan vote. It’s a good first step. And your members of Congress here in Michigan, they know the value of manufacturing as well as anyone and are vital in pushing forward that bill and others. Never again should we be in a situation we face today with semiconductor shortages. The United States can’t manufacture semiconductors. We were the beginning.
President Joe Biden: (26:41)
You know, I think some people think I’m too proud of what the United States always did and why I get so frustrated when we’re sliding. I make no apologies for it. We know these kinds of federal investments work. It was the Defense Department and NASA that got the modern semiconductor industry on its feet decades ago. We started it, your tax dollars. Our own Department of Energy pioneered and transformed the battery industry when Barack and I were in office. And through the Recovery Act grants and loans, battery prices dropped 80%, 80%, because we were looking forward. We need that same mindset today. We have to look forward.
President Joe Biden: (27:50)
And you know, we have to work to support consumers and these fleets. That means new purchasing incentives for consumers to buy clean vehicles like the electric Ford 150, a union-made product right here in America. But all the pieces must be made in America. It means spurring demand by converting the federal government’s enormous fleet of vehicles into clean vehicles and supporting electric transit systems and school buses.
President Joe Biden: (28:27)
Folks, when I got elected, I signed an executive order saying we’re going to buy American. As president, I get to award contracts in the area of 600 to $700 billion a year, from building aircraft carriers to railings that go in buildings. Guess what? Representative Kildee knows. I’m not letting a single contract to a single company that does not hire Americans, have all American parts, and has a supply chain that is an American product supply chain.
President Joe Biden: (29:02)
And by the way, that’s not violating any trade agreement. It’s been the law since the thirties, but no one’s had the courage or the nerve to insist on it being applied. There’s no violation of the World Trade Organization or anything else. If we’re spending American tax dollars, we’re able to say buy American. But there’s a lot of exceptions in the law. If you don’t have the part immediately available in the supply chain, you can go abroad and get it. And anyone in the agency can say, “I can’t find it here, I’m going somewhere.” Not anymore. They got to go through the White House. Not a joke. Nobody can give that exception now, because there’s thousands of companies out there able to do… Small companies, three, four, 10, 15 people, who can supply those pieces, that they know they can compete for them. My brother has an expression-
President Joe Biden: (30:02)
… my brother has an expression. A guy named Pete McLaughlin was a great basketball player. Played for Providence. Was a good close friend. He’d say, “Joe, you got to know how to know. You got to know how to know.” We don’t let the American companies know what’s available to them, especially if they’re small. We have an office in a facility in the White House to let people know what’s needed. And there’s another thing we have in our playbook that’s going to out-compete other nations. The biggest secret we have, the American worker. Not a joke. We have the finest workforce in the world. It’s our ace in that deck.
President Joe Biden: (30:51)
Now I know many of you watching at home are the folks I grew up with in Scranton and Claymont, Delaware. They feel left out, left behind, in an economy, in an industry that is rapidly changing. I understand it. I really do. But we will leave no one behind. Nearly 90% of the jobs created in my American Jobs Plan, do not require a bachelor’s degree. 75% don’t require a associate’s degree. We’re going to be working with companies and community colleges and technical schools and union at apprentice and training programs, to make sure that American workers will be prepared to compete with anyone in the world, just like Ford does with its workforce training center here in Dearborn.
President Joe Biden: (31:45)
And when we invest in our infrastructure, we’re going to buy American products, materials, services for American businesses made in America. And we’ll do everything in our power to encourage and protect the right of workers to unionize and collectively bargain. I met with, I think it was more than a dozen CEOs of the major fortune 500 companies. We started off and I said, “I want to be clear with you, I’m a union guy.” And every one of them, but one said, “I understand.” Because now they’re realizing what Mr. Ford realizes, that you are the best workers available. You’re the best trained. You’re the most capable. And you save overall.
President Joe Biden: (32:40)
Bottom line, American Jobs Plan is a blue collar blueprint to rebuild America. A blue collar blueprint to build America. And we need automakers and other companies to keep investing here in America and not take the benefits of our public investments and expand electric vehicles and battery manufacturing production abroad. We need you to deepen your partnership with UAW, pay good wages, support communities like Dearborn across the country. We need to come together as a nation.
President Joe Biden: (33:16)
The vice-president and I have had a number of meetings in the Oval Office with Republican leaders in Congress and members of Congress. We believe we can find a bipartisan deal and infrastructure, and we look forward to hearing more details of their proposal. We’re going to submit counterproposal either later today or tomorrow, but we made one thing clear, we’ll compromise, but doing nothing is not an option. Doing nothing is not an option. The world is not waiting, I say for a second time.
President Joe Biden: (33:49)
I’ll conclude with this. Last month, I kept my commitment to convene the leaders of the major economies around the world. From Russia, China, India, Japan, the European Union. I convened them all. I think there were 48 or 50 heads of state, presidents and prime ministers, a meeting I hosted by the White House. One of the most consequential issues facing the world, the climate crisis. And I made it clear at the outset, as each of these folks came on, what I’ve long believed.
President Joe Biden: (34:24)
When I think of the climate crisis, beyond is devastation, the live and livelihoods and health of our very planet, I think jobs. I think jobs when I think climate change. Good paying union jobs. I think about the UAW workers show today. I wanted to make sure that the world could see that there was a consensus. That we are at an inflection point in our history. And almost every major leader in the world spoke to it. If we act to save the planet, we can create millions, good paying jobs, generate significant economic growth and opportunity to raise the standard of living for people not only here, but around the world.
President Joe Biden: (35:06)
But I also wanted to put the world on notice, America is back. America is back. In the competition for the 21st century, the future will we built right here in America. Look at this plan. We’re moving. We’re working again. We’re dreaming again. We’re discovering again. We’re leading the world again. We have shown each other and the world that there’s no quit in America. There’s simply no quit in America. And that’s never ever.
President Joe Biden: (35:40)
Every time I have these sometimes knock down drag amounts with heads of state in private, they’ll say something, I’ll say, “Look, it’s never been a good bet to bet against America. Never, never, never. This is the United States of America.” There’s not a single thing, I believe this with every fiber on me, not a single thing, nothing, beyond our capacity when we act together. And that’s exactly what we’re about to do, starting with all of you. And thank you for allowing me to be here. May God bless you and may God protect our troops. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.