Michigan is the largest of the six states holding primary elections on Tuesday, so as the nominating contest for the presidential election touches down in the home of the U.S. auto industry, we decided to check in on what kind of cars the candidates drive when they’re not on the campaign trail.
Autoblog reached out to all the presidential campaign staffs for comment, including those of several Democrat candidates who have since dropped out. We've also included some background on how cars and the auto industry figure into the candidates' policy proposals or actions.
Being POTUS, of course, means you give up the ability to drive yourself anywhere, per Secret Service rules. And these days, President Trump is ferried around in a 20,000-pound armored Cadillac known as “The Beast.”
Though it wears the styling of a Cadillac, it is in fact a unique vehicle. The bespoke stretched limo is built atop a heavy-duty truck platform and can seat seven, and reportedly has the ability to dispatch tear gas and lay an oil slick (!) to deter nefarious pursuants. It reportedly cost almost $1.5 million but was part of a $15.8 million government contract. Trump last month dropped in at the Daytona 500 and did a partial lap riding inside of it before getting out to address NASCAR fans in attendance.
Fittingly for a guy who loves to flaunt his wealth, Trump owns a collection of luxury and performance cars, including a 2003 Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren, a 1956 Rolls-Royce Silver Cloud, a Tesla Roadster and a 2011 Chevy Camaro Indy 500 pace car.
As president, Trump has pleased many (though not all) automakers with his proposed rollbacks of the Obama emissions and fuel-economy regulations, and he famously announced his intention to pull the U.S. out of the Paris Climate Accord. But he has also proved to be a thorn in the side of both GM and Ford, whom he has criticized for building vehicles in countries like Mexico. His trade war with China has resulted in tariffs on imported Chinese steel and auto parts that have driven up costs and complicated plans for many auto companies.
Despite his status as a millionaire, the Vermont independent-turned-Democratic presidential candidate has never been known to splurge on his wheels. Sanders reportedly drove a rusty Volkswagen Dasher during his more spendthrift years as Burlington’s mayor in the early 1980s, and later upgraded to a slightly less used Honda Civic shortly after winning election to the U.S. Senate.
The self-proclaimed Democratic socialist and incumbent independent senator from Vermont supports the Green New Deal, which calls for making massive investments in research and development into electric vehicles, among other things, and he’s long been a backer of Obama-era emissions regulations and of the Paris Climate Accord. He has also introduced legislation to create a carbon tax on polluters.
Sanders also joined UAW workers during last year’s strike against General Motors in Detroit and thanked them for standing up to what he called “corporate greed.” In the Senate in 2008, he voted against federal TARP funds that included bailout money to rescue General Motors and Chrysler, though he supported a separate package that would have provided financial aid to the companies.
After voting here in Burlington, Jane Sanders was briefly locked out of the family Subaru Forester. “Bern! Bern!” she said as Bernie continued to hit the unlock button. pic.twitter.com/gCk9ljGLmh
— Tyler Pager (@tylerpager) March 3, 2020
Sanders has long been associated with owning a red 2010 Chevrolet Aveo LT, plastered with a bumper sticker that reads, “Re-elect Bernie for U.S. Senate 2012.” On Super Tuesday, he drove to his polling place and managed to briefly lock his wife Jane out of their green Subaru Forester, which strikes us as a very Vermont vehicular choice. On the back hatch was a new bumper sticker: “Bernie 2020.”
No media outlet has distilled Biden’s auto enthusiast persona more effectively than The Onion, which has run hilarious and satirical stories about the former president, shirtless and tattooed, washing his Trans Am in the White House driveway and dusting off his flame-painted former campaign Harley.
At minimum, they got the muscle car wrong. In reality, he owns a green 1967 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray, a wedding gift from his father. As you can watch above, he did a burnout in it with Jay Leno riding shotgun and in the same episode who run a drag race with Colin Powell. In 2010, he told workers at a Jeep plant in Toledo, Ohio, that he had had a Jeep parked in his driveway continuously since 1973.
Biden’s father was a car dealer — “Mostly GM,” he told Car and Driver in 2011. Like Sanders and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who withdrew from the race last week, Biden visited striking UAW GM workers last fall in Kansas City, Kan.
Biden is also known as “Amtrak Joe” because of his penchant for riding the Acela line from his home in Delaware to Washington during his more than three decades in the Senate.
“We can take millions of vehicles off the road if we had high-speed rail,” he said in a CNN town hall event last year. "I’ve been a champion of that for the last 25 years. We know the corridors where we could do that.”
Biden has also expressed support for putting more electric vehicles on the road. “We have to take combustion engine vehicles off the road as rapidly as we can,” he said in the same CNN appearance. “But that also can create a significant number of jobs and opportunities for people.”
The Massachusetts senator is a proponent of the Green New Deal, and she reportedly wants to invest in research into using algae to power vehicles. Back in 2012, then-Senate candidate Warren reportedly owned a Ford Escape Hybrid, having traded in a BMW.
Known for his pragmatism, Mayor Pete famously drives a silver 2015 Chevy Cruze, which delivered 32 mpg combined in its most efficient guise.
Yang focused heavily on the disruptions and job losses he saw coming with the rise of self-driving vehicles, artificial intelligence technology and increased automation. In a campaign ad, he drove around in a Tesla Model X, even showing it operating on Tesla’s semi-autonomous Autopilot technology — with hands off the wheel, tisk-tisk — as a way to drive home his point. It seems a fitting choice for the entrepreneur and Venture for America founder, a guy worried about the future.