Sen. Joe Manchin watches as Toyota makes $240M West Virginia investment promise

BUFFALO, W.Va. — The key swing senator who has already played an outsized role in shaping Democrats’ planned $2 trillion Build Back Better Act told Automotive News that he opposes a planned provision to grant an extra $4,500 federal tax credit for union-made electric vehicles.

Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin, speaking at an event here that announced Toyota Motor North America’s $240 million investment in the automaker’s West Virginia components plant, called the provision backed by Michigan’s congressional delegation “wrong” and “not American.”

“When I heard about this, what they were putting in the bill, I went right to the sponsor [Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich.] and I said, ‘This is wrong. This can’t happen. It’s not who we are as a country. It’s not how we built this country, and the product should speak for itself,” Manchin said in an interview. “We shouldn’t use everyone’s tax dollars to pick winners and losers. If you’re a capitalist economy that we are in society then you let the product speak for itself, and hopefully, we’ll get that, that’ll be corrected.”

Asked what Stabenow’s response was, he said: “Not good. I respect that, because she’s fighting for her [constituents] and I’m fighting for mine. I’m just fighting for fairness in the system, and hopefully, we’ll prevail.”

Manchin’s comments came after he toured the 25-year-old Toyota Motor Manufacturing West Virginia plant with Ted Ogawa, Toyota Motor North America’s CEO; Chris Reynolds, the automaker’s chief administrative officer for corporate resources; and other company executives. Toyota — along with American Honda, Volkswagen Group of America and other non-Detroit 3 automakers — has fiercely opposed the proposed federal tax credit for union-made EVs as unfairly benefitting General Motors and Ford Motor Co., as well as potentially Stellantis.

In his remarks delivered on a stage feet away from Manchin, Ogawa stressed that “To be successful, we need the opportunity to compete on an equal, level playing field with all automakers. Given that chance, without any added disadvantage placed on the backs of our team members, we are confident you will help build vehicles customers will choose in an open marketplace.”

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