A battle over automakers' ability to sell electric vehicles directly to consumers is brewing in Colorado — and the EV startup that is backing that effort has its sights set on direct sales in many more states.
That startup, Rivian, is lobbying to open up Colorado's dealer franchise law as it prepares to start production of electric pickups and SUVs this year. Lawmakers in that state could vote as soon as this week on a controversial bill that would allow any automaker — including those with existing franchised dealerships — to sell their EVs directly to customers.
An amendment added to the bill Friday, Feb. 21, designed to prevent traditional automakers from opening up next door to their franchised dealers did little to quell retailers' concerns about what they say are the potential risks should the bill become law.
"We're not enamored with the amendment," said Tim Jackson, president of the Colorado Automobile Dealers Association. "You can't put lipstick on a pig. It's still a pig."
Colorado dealers were expected to lobby some state senators in what Jackson described as an effort to swing a few more votes against the bill, which is backed by a bipartisan group of lawmakers and Rivian.
Rivian's push for direct sales doesn't end in Colorado. The automaker is in favor of a similar bill in Washington state, though that measure is presumed dead this legislative term. Rivian's lobbyist told Washington state legislators in a public hearing Feb. 4 that the startup has received a dealer license in Arizona and is seeking licenses in Illinois, Massachusetts, California and Florida. Rivian's top lobbyist told Automotive News that he believes the company already has the leeway to sell directly in those states.
It's a familiar playbook, one that EV maker Tesla wrote as it rolled out its own direct-sales model. And it has outraged dealers, especially in Colorado, where they say the legislation goes farther than other efforts.