"I don't preclude [franchised dealerships] from ultimately being able to sell electric vehicles or sell a lot of electric vehicles," said Daniel Witt, Lucid's head of public policy. "I do think that there's enough space for both business models to ultimately be successful."
At the same time, traditional automakers are stepping up commitments to electrify their lineups — with some brands, such as Volvo and Cadillac, planning to phase out internal-combustion engines altogether.
The Alliance for Automotive Innovation, which represents several major automakers and some suppliers and tech companies, is aligned with dealers in opposition to legislative efforts in multiple states, a spokesman said. The alliance said the bills would create different sets of rules for different companies.
"With the entire auto industry transitioning to an electric vehicle future, and the prospect of automakers bringing 130 new EV models to the public in the next three years, there is nothing warranting this special treatment," the alliance said in an emailed statement. "All sellers of electric vehicles should be governed by the same laws."
The scope of the bills varies. Ohio lawmakers, for instance, are targeting a narrow exemption for Lordstown Motors, which is based in the state. In Nevada, a bill would remove a cap on direct sales that has been limited to manufacturers that built and sold only their own EVs on or before Jan. 1, 2016 — in essence, Tesla. By striking the date restriction, Nevada's bill language does not prohibit an EV manufacturer that has a franchise network from selling directly. The bill's fate was uncertain as of press time Friday, April 9.
But to sell directly in Connecticut under a bill there, manufacturers couldn't have franchise agreements with new-car dealers in the state, nor could they have a controlling ownership link to a manufacturer licensed as a dealer in the state. They also would be required to build only EVs and sell only the vehicles they build.
"We want to have a level playing field in Connecticut," said Sarah Fryxell, president of the Connecticut Automotive Retailers Association, which opposes the bill. "And if you sell cars in Connecticut, you abide by the franchise laws."