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'Joe Biden is now America's most important auto industry dude'

Mike Rutherford thinks Joe Biden deserves praise for his hands-on approach to the American car industry

Ford F150 Joe Biden

America is down, but it’s certainly not out. Last year the US produced almost nine million of the world’s 78 million cars and commercial vehicles, making it the global No.2 behind China, but ahead of the likes of Japan, Germany and South Korea. So who’s the newest, unlikeliest leader of that still-healthy American portion of the automotive world? 

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Sorry Elon Musk (49) of Tesla, Mary Barra (59) of GM, and Bill Jr. (64) of Ford, but it’s an old bloke called Joe (78) of The White House. You’ve got it – this son of a car dealer, Joe Biden, is not only the President of America, he also decided last week to effectively step up and take over as the country’s most important, influential and wealthy (thanks to his Government’s colossal coffers) auto-industry dude.

The man says he “loves cars”, and I believe him. A few days ago – partly as Mr President, partly as a still-keen driver – he showed his commitment to the modern American automotive cause by being the first person outside Ford to test one of the firm’s EV prototypes, an F-150 Lightning pick-up. 

Biden surely wanted to, and did, deliver a clear message to the generally sleepy US auto industry that there have to be more cheap, mid-priced and expensive electric vehicles with blue oval, GM and Chrysler/Jeep badges. It seems he was heard, because the Lighting EV will start at around $40k (£28k). Also imperative to him is that EVs from US firms proudly wear ‘Made in America’ stickers, plaques or engravings. Quite right, too.  

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Whether or not you like Ol’ Joe’s politics and his healthy acceptance of (not unhealthy infatuation with) EVs, you have to admire him jumping the queue to drive the Lightning before anyone else while he yelped “this sucker is quick.” Priceless. And Only in America!

His calm leadership qualities are a welcome change. Also positive is the long-overdue kick he’s just delivered to the US auto industry. Finally, it’s acknowledging that unless it takes drastic steps to build accessible EVs for America and the rest of the world (Europe included), it’ll end up as a sad local player, serving domestic customers only.

The President is putting his country’s money where his mouth is thanks to his just-announced $174billion (£123billion) EV plan, with more than half that sum funding tax credits for the consumers he aims to persuade to swap their ICE cars and trucks for EVs. But Biden is not just about colossal vehicle-related projects and eye-watering spending. He and his team seem to be in touch with some far less glamorous, but still important things. That’s why he and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration recently launched some brief, but informative, potentially life-saving driver assistance and content on YouTube and elsewhere. Why should you care? Because you might want to look, listen, learn, and improve your tech/product knowledge, safety and security on the road. 

Also, we have to ask why the US’s nearly 80-year-old car guy President Joe can find the time, funding, and enthusiasm for vehicle-related matters such as these, yet our Prime Minister – the 50-something bicycling Boris – can’t, or won’t. Honestly, this sucker is slow. 

We find out if the UK is ready for the upcoming EV revolution...

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Chief columnist

Mike was one of the founding fathers of Auto Express in 1988. He's been motoring editor on four tabloid newspapers - London Evening News, The Sun, News of the World & Daily Mirror. He was also a weekly columnist on the Daily Telegraph, The Independent and The Sunday Times. 

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