In an email sent to foreign media on Tuesday, Tesla CEO Elon Musk reportedly accused President Joe Biden of ignoring Tesla Inc. in favor of focusing more attention on the traditional automaker.
But he also tried to reassure White House officials that he would not do embarrassing things or say unpleasant things if he was invited to the White House or spoke at White House events, which is exactly what the White House is worried about. Musk said, "Actually, they have absolutely nothing to worry about, I will do the right thing."
The response came after the foreign press contacted Musk about Biden and the White House's lack of immediate plans to invite Musk to a possible upcoming meeting of business leaders. The source who spoke to the media about the White House's view of Musk declined to identify himself.
In an email to the media, Musk said, "The idea that I'm out of touch is not quite true. Biden pointedly ignores Tesla at every turn and falsely claims to GM that it is leading the electric car industry, yet the truth of the matter is that Tesla produced more than 300,000 electric cars in the last quarter, compared to 26 for GM." Tesla announced in January that they produced and delivered more than 300,000 electric cars worldwide in the fourth quarter of last year. GM's earnings report, on the other hand, showed that the company sold only 26 electric vehicles in the U.S. in the fourth quarter of last year, including a Hummer electric pickup truck and 25 Bolt electric vehicles.
GM recently announced that production of its Chevrolet-branded Bolt electric vehicle will be discontinued until early April of this year, but the vehicle will resume retail sales shortly thereafter. the Bolt was discontinued due to a defect in the vehicle's battery that could cause the vehicle to spontaneously combust. After the spontaneous combustion defect was discovered, GM suspended production and sales of the model and promised to replace the battery components for owners. The company said they will now focus on battery replacement, the battery used in the Bolt from South Korean company LG Energy Solution.
Not long ago, Biden recognized Tesla as the largest electric car manufacturer in the United States for the first time in his presidency. Since Biden took office, Musk and the White House have been at odds because Biden is pushing hard for infrastructure and trying to encourage a large number of auto companies to go green.
In January, GM CEO Mary Barra stood by Biden and said the company planned to invest $7 billion in Michigan to "further our electric vehicle manufacturing" program. General Motors is based in Detroit. Musk responded to Barra and Biden's comments on Twitter at the time, "Start with a T, end with an A and an ESL in the middle," meaning that Tesla is the leader in the electric car industry.
In an email Tuesday, Musk said, "It's ridiculous that it's come to this point where no one in government can even say the word 'Tesla'! Public outrage and media pressure have forced him (Biden) to admit that Tesla is the leader in the electric car industry. I wouldn't take that statement as a complete 'compliment'."
On Tuesday, a White House spokesman praised the media via email, writing, "Tesla has done extraordinary things for electric cars, and that's a big reason why the entire industry now knows that electric cars are the future."
In addition the White House spokesman didn't forget to point the finger at Musk, saying, "Tesla has also benefited greatly from past EV tax credits, but unfortunately their CEO is opposed to the new EV tax credit program."
Previously, Musk had also occasionally mocked Biden, saying once again that Biden was "still asleep," an expression that coincided with former President Donald Trump's nickname for Biden, "Sleepy Joe.
Because of Musk's comments about Biden, some in the U.S. government privately refer to Musk with bad names, such as "asshole," according to people familiar with the matter.
Musk said to foreign media on Tuesday, "I have nothing against Biden in any way other than a general concern about more deficit spending."
In addition to Tesla, Musk runs space exploration venture SpaceX, whose net worth exceeds $220 billion, according to Forbes.
Biden and senior White House officials have privately signaled to their allies that they have no immediate plans to invite Musk to any upcoming meetings of senior executives, according to people familiar with the matter, who declined to be identified.
Musk has taken to Twitter to rebuke the president, including a recent meeting in late January between Biden and GM CEO Borla and Ford Motor Co. CEO Jim Farley, in which Biden discussed the president's Build Back Better initiative, which has stalled in Congress, with a number of business leaders. In a tweet, Musk called Biden a "wet sock puppet.
Asked why Musk was not invited to that meeting, Brian Deese, Biden's top economic adviser, said, "When it comes to electric cars, we want the U.S. to be the place that drives the electric car revolution, and we want more share of global exports, and we want to create more good jobs in America. This is not something that any one individual company can solve."
Behind the scenes Biden and his team were aggrieved by Musk's criticism, according to several people familiar with the matter. Biden's advisers privately opposed inviting Musk to future industry events because they feared the outspoken executive would say or do something that would embarrass the president or the U.S. government, according to another person familiar with the matter.
Asked about that, Musk first replied with an email with two "rolling on the floor laughing" emojis, then said the White House should not worry about him doing anything outlandish.
A source close to Biden said that because Musk founded a tunneling company called Boring Company, there was a desire to bring Musk to the negotiating table to discuss the president's $1 trillion infrastructure proposal.
Some people inside the White House, including climate adviser Ali Zaid, believe only unionized auto companies such as GM and Ford should meet with Biden and senior administration officials, some of the people familiar with the matter explained.
But the White House has pushed back on that claim. A White House spokesman said, "Ali Zeid has met with every automaker at least once, including Tesla, and he has met with Tesla multiple times. President Biden is focused on creating good union jobs across the country and believes strongly that every worker in every state must have the freedom and fair choice to join a union and the right to bargain collectively with their employer."