WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden on Friday dismissed Tesla CEO Elon Musk’s “super bad feeling” about the economy that is reportedly prompting the electric vehicle company to cut 10% of its workforce.
“Lots of luck on his trip to the moon,” Biden said after reeling off names of car and technology companies that are hiring more workers. “I mean, I don’t know.”
Musk has increasingly warned about risks of a recession, and according to a report from Reuters, the billionaire CEO told Tesla executives Thursday he needs to cut about 10% of Tesla jobs because of his “super bad feeling.” The electric carmaker employed about 100,000 people at the end of 2021.
‘Paying the price’:Biden and top aides misread threat of inflation as warning signs gathered
Biden, responding to a reporter’s question about Musk’s plans, pointed to other companies that are expanding.
“While Elon Musk is talking about that, Ford is increasing their investment overwhelmingly,” Biden said, referring to Ford’s announcement Thursday of a $3.7 billion investment in Ohio, Michigan and Missouri to hire 6,000 workers focused mostly on electric vehicle production.
The president touted other electric vehicle investments from Stellantis and plans from Intel, the world’s largest semiconductor manufacturer, to build a $20 billion complex outside Columbus, Ohio.
The exchange came as the White House faces increasing pressure to address economic concerns amid 40-year high inflation. Biden’s “trip to the moon” remark appeared aimed at Musk’s goal for his space company to be prepared for a moon voyage by 2024.
“Thanks Mr. President!” Musk responded in a Tweet shortly after the president’s comments, linking to a 2021 NASA announcement of its partnership with his company SpaceX to send astronauts to the moon.
Musk, a frequent critic of Biden and Democrats, has a complicated relationship with the White House. As the leading manufacturer of electric vehicles, Tesla is the poster child for the transition from carbon-emitting vehicles that Biden often talks about. But Musk opposes unions, which the president supports, and has taken repeated shots at Biden’s presidency.
What is Biden’s take on Tesla?:White House straddles EV growth, union jobs as petition goes viral
It took Biden more than one year in office to mention “Tesla” in a public speech, finally doing so in February. Tesla was not among was auto companies invited to the White House last August when Biden signed an executive order with the goal of zero-emissions vehicles accounting for half of all automobiles sold in the U.S. by 2030.
Biden’s remarks came after he delivered a speech touting a positive new jobs report that showed 390,000 jobs were added in May, maintaining a low unemployment rate of 3.6%.
Speaking in Rehoboth Beach, Del., where Biden is spending the weekend, the president said that “even with today’s good news” he knows that “Americans remain anxious” because of high consumer prices. He said Americans should “feel confident that we’ll meet these challenges.”
Although Biden did not directly mention fears of a recession, he said he’s confident that steps to tame inflation won’t come at the expense of jobs and other gains.
“We’ve laid an economic foundation that’s historically strong, and now we’re moving forward to a new moment where we can build on that foundation to build a future of stable, steady growth, so we can bring down inflation without sacrificing all the historic gains we’ve made.”
Reach Joey Garrison on Twitter @joeygarrison.