Our guests for the first segment this week are Matthew Phillips, a dealership owner with Car Pros Automotive Group and a board member of the Washington State Auto Dealers Association and Daniel Witt, Public Policy Lead for Lucid Motors, a luxury-electric car maker startup out of California.
New electric auto manufacturers want to be able to sell their vehicles directly to customers in Washington, bypassing the independently owned franchise dealership business model protected under state law.
“The policy of the state of Washington right now, like most other states in the western half of the United States and Canada, is to allow electric vehicles to be sold directly from the manufacturer. Except in the case of Washington it’s by only a single company,” said Daniel Witt, Lucid Motors.
State lawmakers carved out an exemption for Tesla in 2014 after the EV company was reportedly issued a license to operate by accident despite the restriction on automakers running their own dealerships. Car dealers in Washington are worried changing the law will allow large auto manufacturers to sell directly as well, potentially undercutting the franchise dealers who carry their brand. The debate comes at a time when domestic automakers like GM and Ford are setting aggressive electric vehicle transition timelines and the local dealers fear it could put them out of business.
“The reason we have specific, very specific, franchise protection rules is because these multinational billion dollar companies have not always played fairly with their dealer partners,” said Matthew Phillips, Car Pros Automotive Group and WSADA Board Member.
Later we hear from two members of the House Consumer Protection and Business Committee, Rep. Cindy Ryu (D-Shoreline) and Rep. Chris Corry (R-Yakima). The topics include direct EV sales, a proposed pay-per-mile tax for electric vehicles, and a 2030 target date for ending the sale or registration of gas powered vehicles in the state.
“I think it’s going to have to be all hands on deck,” said Ryu. “Electric cars are coming whether we will be purchasing them ourselves or not.”
They also discuss the practical considerations surrounding widespread EV ownership, charging stations, and the implications for the electric grid.
“My concern is how do we do it in a manner that’s not going to cripple our grid? You know we’re talking about removing dams and getting rid of hydropower,” said Corry.