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How EVs are becoming politicized amid UAW strikes

President Biden is set to join the United Auto Workers' strikes this week to show support for union workers, shortly before Former President Donald Trump joins picket lines in Detroit, skipping out on the second GOP debate.

One of the issues at the center of the strike is EV production and what it means for the future of auto workers. Biden's policy to have electric vehicles account for 50% of all new auto sales by 2030 has been lauded by Trump, among other Republicans, over automation fears that could eliminate jobs and the auto parts needed for assembly.

Yahoo Finance Senior Reporter Rick Newman joins to discuss what is factual and what is political strategy from both sides of the aisle.

For more expert insight and the latest market action, click here to watch this full episode of Yahoo Finance Live.

Video transcript

- President Biden will meet with striking UAW workers tomorrow, putting himself in the middle of the labor debate amid the transition to electric vehicles. And former president Trump not far behind. He's going to be in Michigan on Wednesday. And it comes as he launches a new campaign against EVS. Yahoo Finance senior columnist Rick Newman is here with more. So Rick, against EVs. What are the details?

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RICK NEWMAN: Right. So everything else is politicized in America. So why not electric vehicles? There's this Republican line that Trump has really seized on, which is that Biden caused the United Auto Workers strike because of his fervent support for electric vehicles and all the subsidies he has signed into law to try to get automakers to build more electric vehicles and people to buy more electric vehicles. Biden's policy is he wants 50% of all new car sales to be electric by 2030.

So why is this a bad thing in the view of Republicans? Well, electric vehicles have fewer parts. They require fewer workers to build them. From a technological perspective, that sounds like progress to me. I mean, that's the whole history of capitalism, which is that you build a better mousetrap. You become more efficient. You improve your margins. And that's the way technology progresses. But put this in a political context, and I guess they're trying to turn that into a bad thing because it means there will be fewer automaker jobs.

Now that is not 100% true because another thing Biden has done is create these incentives for manufacturers to build all these green energy plants, electric vehicle batteries and things like that, to build these all in the United States instead of importing that, and that is actually happening. But Trump's not going to mention that. He wants the autoworkers and he wants voters, especially in swing states like Michigan and Wisconsin, to think, oh, EVs must be bad. Biden wants EVs. Therefore, I will vote for Trump. I have no idea if he's going to get any traction with that line of reasoning. It's not really right. But he's going to give it a shot.

- Well, and then there's also another constituency in all of this, which is the autodealers. We were talking a little bit earlier about CarMax. For those who are selling EVs and being asked by the automakers to sell EVs, they're not necessarily very happy about it either because an EV doesn't need an oil change, right? It doesn't need as much service as a combustion engine does. So the dealers are not making the money on that aspect, right? So it's very interesting all these competing constituencies here.

What I'm curious about, Rick, also is unions are traditionally very core, democratic contingent here. Is that being upended?

RICK NEWMAN: Trump is definitely trying to upend it. We could talk for the next 45 minutes about all the things you raised, Julie. I mean, think, just go back to this argument. So electric vehicles require less maintenance. Don't all consumers want their products to require less maintenance? I mean, that is a non-ambiguously good thing for consumers. And dealers, by the way, they're a pretty good markups on a lot of these electric vehicles, so they're making pretty good money on a lot of them.

To go back to the unions, the UAW endorsed Joe Biden in 2020, which upset Donald Trump obviously. So you know, Mr. Vengeful, he was trying to get back at the UAW for this. The UAW has not yet endorsed Biden in 2024, but they almost certainly will. But Trump at the same time has gotten a very large portion of union vote for a Republican who is not endorsed by the union itself. That happened in 2016, and it happened in 2020.

So a big part of what Donald Trump is trying to do and probably the main thing he's trying to do is just get some vengeance against the leadership of the United Auto Workers. And one of his other lines is that he's been telling autoworkers, your leadership has sold you down the river, that's his phrase. And he wants to tell autoworkers that their union leaders suck and try to roil the union and see if he can just cause some mischief within the union.

So you know, you can vote for whoever you want if you're in a union. You don't have to vote for the party that your union endorses. But Trump in a way is just trying to make trouble. And he's campaigning. He's trying to get the votes of blue collar workers in Michigan.

- All right. We have to leave it there. But thank you, as always. Yahoo Finance's Rick Newman.