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Pete Buttigieg Has Become America’s Electric Car Czar. So Why Has He Never Gotten Together With Elon Musk?

A chat with the secretary of transportation about the beauty of torque, the danger of becoming a political piñata and the CEO who hovers over everything.

May 13, 2022 12:00 PM PDT

Pete Buttigieg is thrilled to talk about how electric cars will transform the American transportation landscape. He’s much less attached to the idea of meeting the CEO of the country’s biggest electric-car company.

“We were supposed to get together, actually, at South by Southwest,” said Buttigieg when asked if he’s ever spoken one-on-one with Elon Musk. “I don’t think it worked on the schedule.”

Buttigieg, onetime Indiana mayor and presidential aspirant, is now the 19th U.S. secretary of transportation. Musk is the single most dominant player in electric vehicles—that tiny sliver of the automotive market both President Joe Biden and Congress have charged Buttigieg with making exponentially bigger. And yet the nation’s electric car czar and its biggest maker of electric cars have never even had a phone conversation.

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