You’d think that Washington State, home to the highest number of EV registrations per capita last year, would be immune from the kind of laws which would make it difficult for automakers like Tesla to sell cars directly to consumers.
But this weekend, EV owners and advocates in Seattle, WA held peaceful protests in an attempt to head off two bills — Senate Bill 6272 and House Bill 2524 — which would curtail the abilities of Tesla or any other automaker to sell cars directly to consumers.
As with other stories we’ve covered recently, these bills are heavily backed by powerful auto-dealer associations, who view Tesla’s direct-to-customer business model as a threat to their way of life.
Like previous legislature we’ve seen in Texas and in Ohio, SB 6272 and HB 2524 would make it impossible for any automaker or subsidiary company thereof to obtain a dealer license. Instead, it would require all automakers to sell their cars to consumers using independent third-party franchised dealerships.
Unlike certain legislature we’ve seen proposed in other states in the U.S., the proposed bill would allow Tesla to retain its existing retail stores and service centres, but it would prevent the Californian automaker from opening any more in the state, essentially stifling growth of the brand in the most EV-friendly state in the U.S.
“Here is Washington state, the leader in seeking clean power, clean air, clean water, and standing for innovation in technology, the home of Amazon.com, and yet there’s legislation that is basically stifling an innovative car company, an American car company, that is trying to get us off our dependence on foreign oil and reduce the emissions profile of the light duty vehicles,” said James Chen, Tesla’s vice president of regulatory affairs and associate general council in a telephone interview with GeekWire last week.
“You’re looking at basically a special interest group, the dealers, trying to establish through law a monopoly on how consumers can purchase products,” he continued.
The two bills currently being considered in Washington state are actually proposed changes to existing auto dealer laws, laws which were set into law when small, family-run autodealers were at risk of being undercut by the automakers whose cars they were trying to sell.
In the world of multi-billion dollar multinational auto-dealer groups (you can see the top 100 auto dealer groups here) who are as powerful and as wealthy as some of automakers, those same rules are being used to ensure the auto dealers rather than the automakers retain the upper hand.
Like other autodealer association legal battles against Tesla, we’ll keep you up to date with the very latest news here on Transport Evolved, but in the meantime, if you live in Washington state and disagree with the proposed legislation, now might be a good time to contact your representative.
[Hat-tip: Deb Seymour]
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