OLYMPIA, Wa. – Washington State House is currently assessing a bill – HB 1388 – that would grant electric vehicle (EV) manufacturers permission to steer around dealerships and handle public sales directly.
The bill applies to auto makers that exclusively produce zero emissions cars, including the likes of Lucid and Rivian. If passed, eligible companies will be allowed to conduct online sales and establish retail outlets in the state.
While several EV manufacturers testified in favor of the bill during the Consumer Protection and Business Committee’s virtual public meeting held earlier this year, local dealerships were less than enthusiastic about the idea.
Tesla stands firmly alongside its competitors, despite having already received authorization from the state to sell its market-leading vehicles straight to Washington motorists.
This came about as the result of a controversial turn of events in which the Department of Licensing “accidentally” gave Elon Musk the prerequisite license that technically contravened the ruling at the time, as indicated by the Chair of the Committee. Tesla was able to continue operating after being provisioned into legislation in light of public pressure.
According to an internal spokesperson, the EV maker has poured $18 million and created 250 jobs in Washington state since 2014 when it was grandfathered into local law.
Rivian hopes to adopt Tesla’s business model as the first iterations of their electric pick-up trucks and SUVs start leaving the Illinois-based production line between June and September this year.
Public Policy Vice President, James Chen, said that Rivian firmly believes in direct sales, highlighting the prevalence of the approach in almost all other industries. Chen presented the argument that bypassing dealerships poses no threat to existing franchises and that the state stands to lose tax revenue on EV sales in the absence of change.
Lucid, Tesla and Rivian aren’t alone in their proposal. Along with Lordstown Motors, numerous environmental initiatives and pressure groups support the bill as well, including Drive Electric Washington and the Energy Security Leadership Council and the Sierra Club.
The coalition presented a written statement outlining how current legislation is detrimental to EV adoption and prevents Washington from reaching its desired emissions figures. It was also noted that passing bill HB 1388 would assist with improving equity and rebuilding the economy.
Another implication with particular benefits for EV buyers in Washington is the reduction in cost and increased ease of purchasing certain vehicles. For now, consumers must rely on professional auto conveyance services to transport a car that was purchased out of state.
The opposing side comprises organizations such as the Washington State Dealers Association, as well as franchises like Dick Hannah and Harvest Honda and Chevrolet, who stressed that allowing direct EV sales would be devastating to their business.
It was also mentioned that dealerships are vital to supporting the community and providing the state with jobs, service and tax revenue.
Only time will tell the fate of bill HB 1388 and the subsequent impact of the ruling. What’s certain is that it faces a long and complex path through state law if it comes to pass.
James Daniels is a freelance writer, business enthusiast, a bit of a tech buff, and an overall geek. He is also an avid reader, who can while away hours reading and knowing about the latest gadgets and tech, whilst offering views and opinions on these topics.