Ford’s EV Requirements for Dealers Are Totally Unacceptable, Say Connecticut Legislators
Connecticut legislators from both sides of the political fence appear to be less than thrilled with Ford about the deadline it’s imposing on dealerships vying to sell all-electric vehicles. Blue Oval wants retailers to make sizable investments to install on-site charging stations and retrain their staff on how to service EVs. For some stores, this means doling out over one-million dollars just to have the privilege of selling the latest models coming from the Ford Motor Company.
State officials, accompanied by a representative of the Connecticut Automotive Dealers Association, held a press conference earlier in the week to decry the automaker’s decision. This ranged from pleas to give the dealerships more time – something Ford has already done – to outright condemnation of the overarching strategy to have dealerships invest in themselves if they want to stay in business.
According to CTNewsJunkie, Democratic U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal, a former state attorney general, called Ford’s treatment of its dealer network “egregious” and suggested it may be in direct violation of state and federal laws.
“I’m convinced there is a case that needs to be investigated here,” he said. “I’m going to be taking this case to other state authorities including the attorney general, but I think also should be of interest to the Federal Trade Commission, its franchise rules may also be violated here.”
Republican Senator Heather Somers likewise expressed her own "deep and grave concerns" about the program. "Ford is attempting in no secret means to undermine Connecticut's franchise system," she said. "The amount of investment required for our local dealers is staggering.
“The timeframe in which they are supposed to read and respond, it’s just outrageous. It’s unacceptable and really is just an invalid request.”
Ford wants dealerships to install charging stations wherever models like the Mach-E and Lightning pickup are sold – calling it a certification process. However, that’s not something every store is interested in and arguably a requirement only the really successful (see: large and profitable) shops can actually afford. Having already faced criticisms, Ford has already pushed back its original deadline from October 31st. But legislators and the dealer lobby both feel like the company is still asking for too much and needs to provide retailers with additional time or rejigger the certification plan.
Ford wants dealers to become either “Model E” or “Model E Elite” certified by installing a requisite number of chargers. If they refuse, or cannot afford the necessary investments, they will become ineligible to sell any fully electric Ford products for several years. The door opens back up in 2025, when dealerships will be allowed to reapply and prove they’ve made the necessary investments – at which point they may be allowed to sell EVs by 2027.
But what do these investments actually entail?
Model E Elite dealers (awful, awful name btw) are required to install two high-powered DC fast chargers and a level 2 charging station. They are also required to provide at least one DC fast charger that will be available for public use. Ford estimated that this would cost somewhere around $1.2 million for stores that didn’t already have EV charging stations installed.
Standard Model E dealers will only need to install one DC fast charger and ensure that the public has access to it. The company estimated that this would cost roughly $500,000 and noted that it would come with a firm 25-unit limit on how many EVs the dealership will be allowed to sell. This number was said to be the same no matter what the store’s annual volume happens to be, encouraging them to splurge on chargers and try to get the Elite certification.
While those charging points will require the biggest financial investment by far, Ford is also demanding that businesses vying to sell all-electric vehicles do a few more things before they can be Model E certified. Dealers will need to undergo extensive EV training on a regular basis, provide a “digital ownership experience” for the future, establish non-negotiable pricing with an emphasis on online sales, and provide a glitzier experience for customers by offering complimentary pickup and drop-off for vehicle servicing.
It seems a lot to ask from dealers and seeks to fundamentally change how new cars are sold to the public, with Ford having more of a say on pricing while it pushes online sales. It’s something we’ve seen other manufacturers pushing of late, too. However, the popularity of such schemes doesn’t make them any more palatable, even if it’s hard to feel good about defending dealerships after two years of ridiculous markups.
Ford knows this and is undoubtedly trying to leverage no-haggle pricing as a perk to consumers. Still, if the company really does plan on transitioning to an entirely electric lineup, the certification plan is likely to result in further dealer consolidation across the country. This is something that’s been a problem for years, has accelerated recently, and is allowing regional monopolies to take shape, something that clearly helped dealers pump up prices when vehicle supplies were low. Localized competition would have undoubtedly helped prevent some of the heinous price gouging we’ve witnessed since 2020, and you don’t have to take my word for it because Kelly Blue Book agrees.
Connecticut’s dealer franchise laws have made Ford’s EV certification efforts a big issue within the state. Though the legal issues being discussed may not pass federal rules pertaining to price fixing either and there are plenty of other states with franchise laws akin to what’s on the books in Connecticut.
During the related press conference, Rep. Roland Lemar, a Democrat who co-chairs the legislature’s Transportation Committee, pointed out that Ford has likely broken the law and definitely irritated both sides of the political spectrum.
“I think we all are going to call on Ford strongly post this meeting to rescind these terms and to restart this conversation,” Lemar stated. “If they don’t, I can assure them based upon what we’ve heard today that there will be repercussions on both the state and federal level.”
But when have any large businesses or financial entities been held accountable in recent memory? Ford doesn’t seem too concerned with the government getting up in arms and even released a statement explaining that it has no intention of delaying the deadline. Today is the day dealers have to commit to EVs or wait until 2027 before they’ll get another whack at selling one.
"The voluntary program empowers our dealers on when and how to enroll and we understand that some dealers operating in markets with limited EV penetration may chose [sic] not to enroll in this round," Ford spokesperson Marty Günsberg said in a statement sent to Automotive News. "For these dealers, Ford is offering a second entry point in 2025 as Ford's EV production scales rapidly. We are confident that we will have sufficient dealer enrollments for this round to serve our customers nationally."
"[Ford Motor Co.] does not believe the voluntary program violates Connecticut's franchise laws."
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Golden2husky on Dec 04, 2022
Well, heavy demands by manufacturers is not new - witness the Hummer dealership requirements (remember Quonset hut construction and a huge H outside) but this is a bit different. The dealership should be required to have the appropriately trained staff to service the vehicles they sell, regardless of the energy source of propulsion. I had to find a dealer that had a "Corvette specialist" to service my car. But public chargers? Why? The dealer should have adequate charging capabilities on site to ensure that every EV that leaves the dealership is fully charged - and perhaps share info on charging infrastructure but after that its the new owner's responsibility to find a charging station just like its on the buyer to find a gas station. Sometimes there is just too much emphasis on the differences in gas/EV vehicles instead of what is the same. This is the same.
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