Show an ad over header. AMP

Cutting out the middleman on electric car sales

The auto industry is in the midst of the biggest transformation in a century, with cars one day running on electrons, not gasoline.

Why it matters: But it's not just the cars that are changing. How we buy and service them is being disrupted, too. Instead of selling cars through franchised dealers, emerging auto manufacturers want to sell electric vehicles direct to consumers, either online or in their own stores.

  • But that's illegal in more than half the states in America, which environmentalists and consumer groups argue is holding back EV adoption and keeping the U.S. from achieving emissions reduction goals.

What's happening: A coalition of EV companies and advocates is working state-by-state to overturn decades-old laws that prohibit car manufacturers from opening their own stores or service centers.

  • Tesla started the fight in 2014; now newcomers like Rivian, Lucid and Lordstown Motors are joining the effort, too.
  • "What did the global pandemic teach us? It's that people want a better way to buy a car," Rivian's vice president of public policy, James Chen, tells Axios.

Where it stands: At least 20 states allow EV manufacturers to sell directly to consumers, including California, Illinois and Florida. The latest was Colorado, which passed a law last March.

  • In eight other states, including New York, Tesla fought for an exemption from the franchise laws, but it doesn't apply to other EV manufacturers.
  • One of those states, Washington, took up a bill this week that would remove the restriction for all EV makers.
  • In Michigan, where Rivian is based, the rules are exceptionally twisted: EV makers can conduct "sales-like" activities at branded stores, but the actual sale — transfer of title — must take place in another state.
  • The remaining states, including Texas — where Tesla is building a new gigafactory — prohibit EV manufacturers from direct sales.

The big picture: The dealer franchise laws were passed in the 1950s to protect car dealers from having to compete with factory-owned stores.

  • As a result, carmakers like GM and Ford wholesale vehicles to independent dealers, who turn around and sell those cars to consumers at a markup.

What they're saying: EV startups don't want a middleman selling or servicing their high-tech products.

  • "We have a desire to have direct touch with our customers," says Rivian's Chen.
  • Neither does Lucid, which plans to sell its luxury EVs at company-owned "studios" or online. Cars would be picked up for service, or maintained by mobile service fleets.

The other side: "The direct-sales model wasn’t built to sell EVs," says Jared Allen, a spokesman for the National Automobile Dealers Association."

  • "It was built to limit competition for both sales and service by creating a vertical channel for manufacturing, sales and service that allows a single entity to control everything, including prices."

The intrigue: GM and Ford initially backed the dealers in their fight against Tesla, but now they have skin in the EV game, too.

  • GM says it aims to phase out gasoline vehicles by 2035 and Ford has a $500 million stake in Rivian.
  • Both companies are investing heavily in EV development and asking dealers to do the same to get their showrooms EV-ready.

What's needed: Daniel Crane, a University of Michigan professor tracking the issue suggests a legislative compromise.

  • Traditional cars could continue to be sold and serviced only by franchised dealers.
  • But EVs and future technologies could be sold directly by both legacy carmakers and startups.

Democrats to take up immigration reform next week

The House will vote on two immigration bills next week, including one to protect undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. as children, Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said Tuesday on a call with the Democratic caucus.

Why it matters: This is likely the only realistic shot the Biden administration has at this point to pass immigration reform.

Keep reading... Show less

Biden to be briefed on need for 20,000 child migrant beds to cope with border surge

A briefing scheduled for President Biden this afternoon outlines the need for 20,000 beds to shelter an expected crush of child migrants crossing the U.S.-Mexico border, Axios has learned.

Why it matters: The rapid influx of unaccompanied children is building into the administration's first new crisis. A presentation created by the Domestic Policy Council spells out the dimensions with nearly 40 slides full of charts and details.

Keep reading... Show less

FBI director: Jan. 6 Capitol attack was domestic terrorism

The FBI views the Jan. 6 Capitol siege as an act of domestic terrorism, director Christopher Wray testified in his opening statement Tuesday before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Why it matters: The FBI's designation of the attack as domestic terrorism puts the perpetrators "on the same level with ISIS and homegrown violent extremists," Wray said.

Keep reading... Show less

Sen. Martin Heinrich to introduce plan to grant Puerto Rico statehood

U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) and Rep. Darren Soto (D-Fla.) announced Tuesday they would introduce legislation to start the motions for Puerto Rico statehood.

Why it matters: More than 52% ofPuerto Ricans voted last November in favor of statehood, three years after Hurricane Maria struck the island and caused one of the worst natural disasters in recorded history. It exposed the island's vulnerable position as a U.S. territory and its lack of resources to battle poverty.

Keep reading... Show less

J&J and Merck to partner for COVID vaccine production to boost supply

President Biden will announce Tuesday that pharmaceutical giant Merck will help Johnson & Johnson manufacture its newly authorized coronavirus vaccine to boost supply, a senior administration official tells Axios.

The big picture: The development has the potential to vastly increase supply, possibly doubling what the J&J could make on its own, the official said. The company has run into challenges while trying to expand its vaccine production to a global scale.

Keep reading... Show less

Casinos are throwing cash at sports betting media

Casinos are investing millions on sports betting content to lure bettors to their online and in-person sportsbooks.

Why it matters: It’s a mini gold rush for some sports media companies that were struggling in the pandemic.

Keep reading... Show less

Global carbon emissions rebound to pre-COVID levels

Newly released data show that global CO2 emissions had returned to pre-pandemic levels by the end of last year and surpassed them in some major economies.

Why it matters: The International Energy Agency warned that clean energy efforts are falling short.

Keep reading... Show less

Civil rights leader and Bill Clinton adviser Vernon Jordan dies at 85

Vernon Jordan, the Civil Rights Movement pioneer who served as a close adviser to former President Clinton, died on Monday evening, CNN reports. He was 85.

Why it matters: The former National Urban League president was influential in American politics — from his service in President Lyndon B. Johnson’s civil rights conference to his position in leadership at the NAACP.

Keep reading... Show less



Get Goodhumans in your inbox

Most Read

More Stories