ATLANTA — Legislation allowing electric vehicle manufacturers like Rivian to sell directly to consumers rather than through dealerships did not make it past last week's Crossover Day but may still have a chance this year.
Senate Bill 398, sponsored by District 1 State Sen. Ben Watson, R-Savannah, faces strong opposition from the trade association representing Georgia vehicle dealers who tend to be major political forces locally.
James Chen, Rivian's vice president of Public Policy and chief regulatory counsel, said Rivian was "committed to working with policymakers in Georgia to do what's right for Georgia consumers, and for the state's long-term competitiveness as a leader in advanced automotive technology."
"Consumer choice and free-market values must be prioritized over narrow special interests if the state is to take that leadership role,” Chen said.
However, the Automobile Dealers Association of Georgia stated on its website that, "Ultimately, direct sales by manufacturers will mean dealerships closing and a loss of jobs for hard-working Georgians."
Neither house of the Georgia General Assembly has approved the legislation. Crossover Day is the point within the annual 45-day legislative session generally considered to be where bills must have passed either the House or Senate to have enough time for final approval that session.
Since this is the final year in the current two-year General Assembly, any legislation not approved this year must be refiled in 2023.
Yet, bills that gain late support in General Assembly sessions typically can be brought back up and approved late in the session — or added to other bills that are still alive.
California-based Rivian is planning to invest $5 billion in a manufacturing facility and research center that will employ up to 7,500 on a 2,000-acre site partly in Social Circle. The site is adjacent to I-20 and straddles the line between Walton and Morgan counties.
The state government recently agreed to take control of the planning process and appointed a series of committees that will plan the facility.
It also has agreed to build an on-site training center for the company and provide a series of road improvements, including a new I-20 interchange linking to Old Mill Road in Morgan County.
Senate Bill 398 specifically allows electric vehicle manufacturers to sell their cars directly in an unlimited number of locations in Georgia and requires EV companies to provide maintenance services for their cars.
A similar bill was filed in the state House in 2021 but Rivian officials said they did not base their decision to locate their manufacturing facility in Georgia based on that bill's success, company officials said.
Tesla is the only vehicle manufacturer allowed to sell to customers directly in Georgia. State lawmakers voted in 2015 to allow the company to sell cars without going through local dealers but limited its direct sales to five locations statewide.
The Automobile Dealers Association said Tesla was a startup and the only U.S. EV-only company when it was allowed direct sales in 2015. Now, it is among a group of larger U.S. companies like Rivian and Lucid Motors, and smaller manufacturers like Nikola and Fisker, according to industry analysts.
Direct sales will "impact the jobs of more than 3,000 Georgians directly employed at franchised auto dealers in order to line the pockets of wealthy, out-of-state investors," the Association stated in an FAQ section on its website.
"If any of the proposed legislation passes, it won’t just be dealers and their employees who suffer. Georgia citizens will pay more for electric vehicles than they would if sold through franchise dealers.
"They will also pay more for service, and there will be fewer, if any, repair facilities that Georgians who own directly sold EVs can access with convenience. This means warranty repairs and recalls could be delayed or denied."
"Moreover, many of the economic benefits from these companies will not stay in Georgia, as they do with franchised dealers.”