'It's Still a Pig': Colorado Dealers Association Cold on Direct Sales Model, But Rivian Sees Promise There and Beyond
With production of its R1T pickup scheduled to commence later this year, upstart EV maker Rivian is aiming to get its products into as many states as possible, even if it means challenging dealer franchise laws. Following the R1T’s debut, the R1S three-row SUV will arrive to bolster Rivian’s emissions-free game.
In Colorado, where a bill seeking to allow direct sales via OEM-owned stores cleared a Senate committee last week, Rivian hopes to secure a victory — then replicate it in other protectionist states.
Senate Bill 167 wouldn’t just help Rivian. The legislation would allow any automaker, even those with franchised dealers, to sell electric vehicles directly to consumers. The only protection in the bill is an amendment, added last Friday, that would forbid an automaker from opening a store next door to an existing dealership.
Go figure, the Colorado Automobile Dealers Association isn’t hot on the idea.
“We’re not enamored with the amendment,” Tim Jackson, president of the CADA, told Automotive News. “You can’t put lipstick on a pig. It’s still a pig.”
As reported by the Colorado Sun, the state’s dealer franchise law is fairly hazy in its wording; Jackson feels that an automaker like Rivian could already be within its rights to open a dealer. The bill’s backer, Senator Chris Hansen (D-Denver) agrees on the ambiguity, but feels the legislation is necessary to clear up any mystery and give EV makers a new avenue to reach customers.
The bill has the support of Gov. Jared Polis.
Earlier this month, a Rivian lobbyist said the Michigan-based automaker, which owns a former Mitsubishi assembly plant in Normal, Illinois, has received a dealer license in Arizona, and is pushing for entry into California, Illinois, Massachusetts, and Florida. Efforts to legalize a direct-sales model in Washington hit a legislative roadblock, however, as a bill seeking to allow such a model is now dead in the water for the current term.
In response to the Colorado bill, numerous automakers pledged support for their existing dealer networks. Officials from Ford, General Motors, Toyota, Mitsubishi, and Audi have all issued statements backing the franchise model.
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