Chen argues that without or without investing in the plant, Rivian’s direct sales model is good for Georgia.
It is about “giving Georgians the right to buy a vehicle the way they want,” he said. “I am optimistic … lawmakers will have the political courage to vote for policies that help support and promote local businesses that want to invest in the state.”
But Georgian franchise dealers say Rivian’s large dollar investment in the state does not justify changes in state laws aimed at protecting consumers.
“Dealer agreements and franchise laws ensure that consumers“ get the best product backed by good service, and if anything goes wrong, they have protection, ”said Jimmy Ellis, president of Jim Ellis Automotive Group of Atlanta.
Dealers claim that they are quite capable of selling and servicing EVs as their old franchises are also geared towards electrification. There are currently 31 fully electric models available for purchase in the U.S., and at least 10 more are expected by the end of the year, according to Guidehouse Insights.
Dealers are investing millions of dollars in training, equipment and infrastructure to charge for the sale and maintenance of next-generation cars, said Ellis, whose group operates 20 stores representing 17 brands.
“We’re all about electric cars – we know how to do it, and we’ll be absolute rock stars if they really start to spread,” he said. “There is simply no need for a separate channel for the distribution, sale and maintenance of cars, especially if they are more risky and do not ensure the efficiency and effectiveness of the franchised network system.”
Ellis, a board member of the State Dealers Association, points to Tesla’s well-documented struggle with service capabilities as a potential challenge faced by automakers when they take on the retail side of the business.
“Your customers are waiting a few days to get repairs,” he said. “If your finale is to give the client a great ownership experience, then for me it’s not improved.”