Elon Musk’s Feud With Biden Administration Escalates

BEIJING, CHINA - OCTOBER 23: (CHINA OUT) Elon Musk, Chairman, CEO and Product Architect of Tesla Motors, addresses a press conference to declare that the Tesla Motors releases v7.0 System in China on a limited basis for its Model S, which will enable self-driving features such as Autosteer for a select group of beta testers on October 23, 2015 in Beijing, China. (Photo by Visual China Group via Getty Images/Visual China Group via Getty Images) VISUAL CHINA GROUP VIA GETTY IMAGES

Tesla ‘s battle with the Biden administration escalated after CEO Elon Musk called President Joe Biden a “puppet” for the United Auto Workers in a Sunday tweet.



Musk was replying to a tweet outlining electric-vehicle purchase tax credits proposed in the president’s infrastructure bill. The bill includes an extra $4,500 for EVs assembled by unionized labor.

Purchase tax credits lower the cost of an EV by giving a buyer a tax deduction. Right now, Tesla vehicles no longer quality for federal tax credits.

Tesla’s plant in Fremont, Calif., isn’t unionized, so the proposal could give EVs from other auto makers—including Ford Motor (F) and General Motors (GM)—a pricing advantage depending on where the vehicles are assembled.

Tesla (ticker: TSLA) and the White House weren’t immediately available for comment Sunday evening.

The problems between Tesla and the Biden administration began when the president didn’t invite Tesla, the largest U.S. EV producer, to the White House when he announced his EV goals in early August. Biden wants 50% of the cars sold in the U.S. to be all-electric by 2030. GM, Ford, and the UAW attended the ceremony.



Musk called the decision odd in a tweet. He tweeted in late September that Biden was “still sleeping” after the president didn’t call to congratulate SpaceX and its civilian astronaut mission, which raised money for St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital.

After that, still in September, at the Code technology conference in California, Musk suggested that the Biden administration was biased against Tesla, adding the administration “seems to be controlled by unions.”

Musk also has a problem with a Biden appointment to the National Highway Transport Safety Administration. Missy Cummings, a Duke University professor who will be a safety advisor to the NHTSA, has questioned Tesla’s autonomous driving software on several occasions in the recent past. She is concerned that Tesla’s self-driving features could be misused by drivers . Musk called Cummings “extremely biased” in a tweet.

Tesla and Cummings didn’t respond to requests for comment at the time of Musk’s Twitter comment.

All of this matters to investors only if it impacts Tesla’s bottom line. The $4,500 tax credit could matter, although the bill isn’t law yet. And the NHTSA hasn’t yet made recommendations on how Tesla implements and tests its autonomous-driving features. All auto makers are offering driver-assistance features that are designed to improve safety and convenience.

The spat hasn’t hurt Tesla stock yet. Tesla shares rose more than 40% in October, while the S&P 500

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