In Georgia, school bus-maker Blue Bird has visions of going from selling a few hundred electric buses annually to 15,000. In Michigan, Ford plans to produce an all-electric version of its F-150 pickup truck.
Both companies are looking to President Joe Biden’s $2.3 trillion infrastructure proposal to help transform the automotive sector as electric vehicles shift from a luxury niche to mainstream America. The plan reflects an effort by Biden to accelerate certain sectors of the economy with the belief they’ll become the engines for growth in the decades to come.
“You need someone to give you a real jumpstart,” Blue Bird CEO Phil Horlock said. “This is actually changing the landscape.”
Biden will visit Ford’s electric vehicle plant in Dearborn, Michigan, on Tuesday, returning to an industrial state that contributed to his election victory and is the center of an auto sector that’ll likely need some government help to move away from gas guzzlers.
The Democratic president wants the government to accept the risk of investing in a series of industries such as electric vehicles and semiconductors that he believes will become the backbone of the U.S. economy. It’s a sharp philosophical divide from Republican lawmakers who would rather the federal government focus more on the steel, concrete and asphalt of conventional infrastructure projects.
“He has an industrial policy — which we’ve always had but never admitted,” said Brett Smith, director of technology at the Center for Automotive Research. “Our industrial policy had been that low-cost energy wins. He’s shifting that to carbon-free energy is the industrial policy.”