In one of the first major challenges confronted by the newly formed Alliance for Automotive Innovation, the Colorado electric vehicle sales bill is putting a schism over franchise laws and direct selling in the spotlight.
Following the introduction of the bill Feb. 13, alliance members met to discuss it, a person familiar with the talks told Automotive News. Two camps have emerged: Incumbent automakers — which expect a fight with dealers over any changes to the franchise system — and new brands including those of tech companies that don't see a need for the franchise laws, the person said.
Two other sources said that as a result of the rift between members, the alliance is neutral on the bill.
Wade Newton, spokesman for the alliance, said in an emailed statement that the group maintains it has not announced a position, "neutral or otherwise."
Several automakers, including Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, when asked for comment on the discussions, declined and referred to the alliance.
Tim Jackson, president of the Colorado Automobile Dealers Association, which opposes the bill, said a neutral stance would be a "safe space" for the alliance.
"Being neutral, by the way, doesn't hurt us on this bill," Jackson said. "And we would much rather [the alliance] be neutral than in favor of this bill."
The alliance touts itself as "a new voice for the industry."
Membership of the group includes traditional automakers such as General Motors and Ford Motor Co., in addition to new entrants such EV manufacturers Karma Automotive and Byton.
With the association including tech companies — especially those in the auto sector working on self-driving, electrified and connected vehicles — it's no surprise that it is finding it difficult to navigate and align under a single voice, an industry source said.
This could mean there will be no fierce pushback from the alliance for the time being, the source added. But with challenges to dealer franchise laws spreading to other states, and the Trump administration's pending rollback of fuel-economy standards, the alliance will need to reach a compromise, the source said.
Lindsay VanHulle contributed to this report.