Former US President Donald Trump addressed autoworkers in suburban Detroit, Michigan, on Wednesday evening. Trump, the current Republican front-runner for the 2024 presidential race, delivered a speech critiquing electric vehicles (EVs) and warned of the decline of the US auto industry under Democratic leadership, particularly US President Joe Biden's policies.
During his speech at a non-union auto parts supplier, Trump repeatedly called on UAW members to encourage their union leaders to endorse him, aiming to appeal to the union's rank-and-file workers.
He also expressed concern about the direction the auto industry is taking under Democratic leadership. "Tell your UAW leaders — no problems with them — but they have to endorse Trump," he says.
The former President emphasized his commitment to saving the US automotive industry from what he sees as potential consequences of current Democratic policies, including the push for EVs.
While Trump voiced no issue with EVs, he insisted that consumers should have the freedom to choose between these and traditional gasoline and diesel models. He criticized Biden's goal of having half of all new vehicles sold by 2030 be EVs and the auto industry's reliance on China for batteries and components.
"If you want to buy an electric car, that is fine. I am all for it," Trump says. "But we should not be forcing consumers to buy electric vehicles they do not want to buy."
Trump's visit coincided with the UAW's ongoing strikes against major automakers, including General Motors, Ford Motor and Stellantis. Contracts for 146,000 UAW members expired on Sep. 14 and about 18,300 workers are now on strike. The union has threatened additional strikes if substantial progress is not made in negotiations.
Throughout his speech, Trump underscored the significance of saving the auto industry, arguing that ongoing labor disputes would not matter if the industry itself was at risk of decline. "It does not make a difference what you get because in two years, you are all going to be out of business," says Trump.
Historically, the UAW has supported Democratic candidates, including Biden in 2020. However, Shawn Fain, President, UAW, has not yet officially endorsed Biden for the 2024 presidential election, citing concerns about the future of EVs. While Fain referred to Biden joining the picket line as a "moment," he remains cautious about endorsing any candidate.