“This may be the most consequential piece of legislation that this industry has seen in a decade,” Ann Wilson, MEMA’s senior vice president of government affairs, told Automotive News. “It is obviously setting a very aggressive agenda for the industry, which is an industry that is already globally in transition.”
While the lengthy letter was a “very formal way” of beginning those conversations, Wilson said, the infrastructure plan is an opportunity for the industry to put its fingerprints on transformative legislation and make sure “the issues addressed are ones that are key to the continued competitiveness and growth” of the auto sector.
Automakers and suppliers plan to invest $250 billion in electrification by 2023, but only 1.5 million of the 278 million passenger vehicles currently registered in the U.S. are EVs, according to the groups’ letter. EVs also made up only about 2 percent of new-vehicle sales in the U.S. last year.
“This transformation requires partnerships,” said John Bozzella, CEO of the alliance, during a press call last week.
“Yes, automakers will continue to invest, continue to partner, continue to develop new approaches to deploy enormous amounts of capital, but more than that will be required to put in place the necessary conditions for success.”
Kristin Dziczek, senior vice president of research at the Center for Automotive Research in Ann Arbor, Mich., said there’s “a lot of pressure” to transition quickly to EVs, and Biden’s proposal aims to accelerate the shift.
“It puts many of the pieces in place to get there,” she said.
“I don’t know if we get all the way there, but I think there are some big challenges ahead — not just on getting the bill passed. … Getting consumers on board and getting this infrastructure built out is going to take quite a bit of time.”
A hasty transition also could leave smaller companies and certain regions — especially those that are part of the supply chain for internal combustion engine vehicles — more vulnerable, Dziczek said.
To lessen the impact, MEMA’s Wilson said “we need to make sure that we leave as few people behind as possible,” including suppliers manufacturing components and technologies that may not be needed in EVs.
“We need to retool those factories. We need to train those workers,” Wilson added. “We need to make sure that this is a future for all of those people.”