Here We Go Again: Foxconn is Apparently Looking to Make Electric Vehicles in the United States

By Elizabeth Brotherton-Bunch
Aug 23 2021 |
Families were forced out of their homes to build a Foxconn plant that would employ 13,000 people in Wisconsin. It never came to pass. Photo by “VMR_0740” by V’ron is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

We aren’t holding our breath.

Over the past week, we’ve used this space to chronicle the “We Supply America” bus tour, which traveled throughout the Industrial Heartland advocating for infrastructure investment. But that means we’ve also missed the chance to spotlight a few notable stories that popped up recently — including the latest news about Foxconn.

You know Foxconn. Back in 2017, then-President Donald Trump announced that the Taiwanese electronics manufacturer — best known for assembling the iPhone — would spend $10 billion to build a massive factory in Wisconsin to manufacture flat panel displays for television sets and other electronics, creating around 13,000 new jobs. In return, the state of Wisconsin would give Foxconn a massive $4 billion tax break.

Flash forward to today. While residents were forced from their homes in order to make way for the flat panel factory, it never was built. Over the years, Foxconn has announced a whole set of different ideas for the Wisconsin site — including ditching manufacturing all together and making it a research and development hub — but Foxconn now is saying that whatever it does there will create less than 1,500 jobs.

Since Foxconn didn’t make good on their end of the bargain, Wisconsin leaders canceled a bunch of the tax breaks. The whole thing is a real boondoggle.

Anyway, now Foxconn is looking to make electric vehicles (EV) in the United States, and apparently the Wisconsin site is in contention. TechCrunch reports:

At its US facility, Foxconn will build vehicles for EV clients including Fisker. The companies signed a deal in May, and Foxconn plans to start making Fisker EVs by the end of 2023. The two are jointly investing in the Project Pear vehicle and will share revenue from it.

Foxconn is in discussions with three states, including Wisconsin, for the EV plant, according to Nikkei. Earlier this year, Foxconn drastically scaled back plans for its existing facility in Wisconsin. [Chairman] Liu [Young-way] has also suggested Foxconn may build EVs at the controversial plant.

It makes sense that Foxconn would get into the EV game, and want to do so in the United States. The need to reduce carbon emissions is leading to a pivot to EVs, and the Biden administration recently set a target of having 50% of new vehicle sales in the U.S. by 2030 come from zero emission vehicles.

But it’s important to keep in mind that Wisconsin wasn’t the first time that Foxconn has made manufacturing promises it wasn’t able to keep — and nothing is quite certain with this new EV plan, either.

For one, while Wisconsin is said to be in contention for this plant, electrek reported that “two other states are apparently in play.” In fact, Foxconn may not end up building an EV plant in the United States at all; it’s also looking to expand operations in Thailand and possibly even Europe. Given the company’s history, it’s entirely possible that it just abandons its U.S. plans entirely.

So yeah, we aren’t holding our breath that any promise that Foxconn ever makes will come to pass, let alone these latest vague, unconfirmed plans. But that doesn’t mean that the United States shouldn’t get to work on efforts to increase electric vehicle manufacturing.

As we noted when Biden announced its EV purchase targets, it is not enough to transition sales from gas guzzlers to zero emission cars, trucks, and SUVs. We also need to ensure the United States makes EVs too, along with the supply chains and infrastructure needed to support them.

Success won’t happen if we are dependent on promises from flaky companies like Foxconn — smart policy needs to be put into place to drive domestic EV manufacturing, including Buy America preferences. If we do it right, we’ll will create millions of new jobs up and down the supply chain that won’t be dependent on the whims of a multinational corporation. Let’s get to work.