Elon Musk vs. Mary Barra
It's fair to say that Tesla CEO, Elon Musk, is the undisputed leader when it comes to the electric vehicle revolution. The stock market (and a majority of investors) certainly believe that to be the case. However, the US government and major media outlets seem (curiously) to be leaning towards GM CEO, Mary Barra, as today's true EV superstar.
Above: Elon Musk on an old Time Magazine cover while Time's new cover features Mary Barra (Source: Time)
In fact, just recently, Mary Barra was praised by President Joe Biden for "electrifying the entire auto industry." Interestingly, GM happens to be the main beneficiary of the Build Back Better bill — receiving (potentially) the max $12,500 tax credit for its new EV buyers. The full reimbursement is only available to the unionized electric carmakers — GM is unionized and Tesla is not.
Not everyone in the media, to be fair, understands this fully. Andrew Ross Sorkin from The New York Times recently asked some pointed questions when interviewing Mary Barra at the 2021 Dealbook online summit.
When Sorkin reminded Barra that there will be a bigger tax incentive for vehicles made by her company compared to non-unionized Tesla, he asked, “Is that fair?” Barra replied, “Well, the new legislation coming, I think what really important to do is to level the playing field.” Since both Tesla and GM have already delivered 200,000 EVs, the $7,500 tax credit is gone for both companies.
Even though Tesla is not unionized, Tesla employees often make more money compared to employees working at GM. Tesla employees are also given company stock after one year in addition to other benefits.
Above: Mary Barra's efforts to position GM to be able to take on Elon Musk's Tesla in the electric vehicle space (YouTube: Reuters)
“You’ve spent a lot of time with this administration. They’ve had a number of meetings around EVs — Tesla has not been invited to those meetings. Do you know why that is? Do you sit there and say this is a little strange given the role that [Tesla] played,” Sorkin said to Barra during the interview.
Indeed, President Biden and Mary Barra ignoring Tesla as the leader of the global EV market seems to be part of a narrative they're both attempting to build — to establish GM as the (ahem) electric vehicle leader.
Time Magazine just featured Barra on its cover. “General Motors CEO Mary Barra is engineering a greener future,” the cover gushes. The magazine also features the prototype Hummer EV (which is still not on sale). Furthermore, thousands of Chevy Bolt EVs have been recalled for battery issues.
Will Mary Barra suddenly take the EV throne from Elon Musk? Doubtful. But we sincerely hope GM pushes ahead and becomes a major player in the EV space. That said, credit should be given where credit is due. Yes, if GM starts pulling ahead of Tesla in EV sales, we'll consider Barra in the EV space. Until then, let's hope the GM CEO starts putting some EVs on the road.