Lucid Motors, Rivian, Tesla, EV Club of CT, and franchised car dealerships discuss bill SB 127 to permit direct sales of EVs in Connecticut
Summary - see and hear for yourself how this Feb 19 2021 public hearing went, in the video gallery below featuring Automakers, Legislature, EVClub of CT, and Gas Stations. Dealerships are listed here.
While I've been inside the beautiful Connecticut State Capitol building - once as a kid for a tour, and more recently as an IT Professional installing computer equipment - this wasn't going to be the year for going onsite. When I was asked to give written and maybe even public testimony about my ownership experience with 2 EVs, it was as simple as emailing it in. The confirmation email and unique-to-me Zoom link arrived at 4:02 pm the evening before the event. So the pressure was on. Let's go back a bit to understand why.
My previous car was a new 2006 Honda Civic Hybrid that I bought right in Hartford, Connecticut. Hybrids had no state tax back then, essentially giving me about $2000 off. Flash forward to 2018, when I ordered my first all electric car, the Tesla Model 3. I quickly learned I had to pick it up in Mt. Kisco, New York. State of Connecticut sales taxes were also collected, and it was deemed too expensive to qualify for any state rebates like CHEAPR. Could it be that my state's incentives to go green were actually going in reverse?
What does it convey about our state that the top company that engineering students want to work for is not even allowed to sell their products here?
I love Connecticut, see also my homage to Wethersfield, but I'm well aware that change is sometimes sorely needed.
Reading tea leaves for signs of intent is what people do. What's Connecticut's intent? For example, years ago, I spied those spiffy and inspiring Massachusetts EV plates when working near Boston. Why doesn't Connecticut have those?
It's time for change. It was also time for me to learn a little more about how state government actually works.
In the past, public hearings like this would mean that concerned citizens and EV Club of CT members, dealers, and out-of-state auto makers would get to the State Capitol bright and early, advocating for faster adoption of EVs in our state. This time around, the transportation committee opened this live-streamed Zoom meeting to any state resident, dealer, or manufacturer who pre-registered, even me. The topic was SB 127 – Permits Direct Sales of EVs.
I was nervous when my turn came up at the end of the day, and it showed. But the fun part for me was learning from how well others presented, cordially sticking within their 3 minutes, followed by up to five minutes of surprisingly active Q&A afterward.
What's at stake here, and why do we care?
You can't take delivery of a Tesla in Connecticut. No showrooms or stores either, only service.
Same goes for Lucid Motors and Rivian too.
But that's not all, Michael Liebow explains in this article excerpt:
The ICE market crash is coming along with the franchise model. It’s the point when residuals plummet. Compared to Norway with a pop of 5.3 million, 50% EV share or 347k registered. CT has pop of 3.5 million and only 14k registered. We need to reduce friction and encourage change
Going to any surrounding State to buy an EV is inconvenient but not the end of the world. Being viewed as a laggard, a holdout while the rest of the country sheds a 100-yr old model, that’s the real problem. Send the right message. Lead.
I encourage you to read the whole thread, pictured at right.
It was members of the EV Club of CT that helped raise EV manufacturers' awareness of this bill:
- Proposed S.B. No. 127 | Session Year 2021 |
AN ACT CONCERNING THE SALE OF ELECTRIC VEHICLES IN THE STATE..
To permit electric vehicle manufacturers to sell electric vehicles directly to the consumer.
General Assembly Proposed Bill No. 127
January Session, 2021
Referred to Committee on TRANSPORTATION
SEN. HASKELL, 26th Dist.
REP. STEINBERG, 136th Dist.
AN ACT CONCERNING THE SALE OF ELECTRIC VEHICLES IN THE
Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives in General
1 That title 14 of the general statutes be amended to permit the
2 Commissioner of Motor Vehicles to issue a new or used car dealer's
3 license to an electric vehicle manufacturer, provided such manufacturer
4 does not have a franchise agreement with any new car dealer in the
5 state, manufactures only electric vehicles and demonstrates a
6 sustainable business model for providing service and repairs to such
7 electric vehicles.
Statement of Purpose:
To permit electric vehicle manufacturers to sell electric vehicles directly
to the consumer.
LCO No. 259 1 of 2
There's only a few states left like Connecticut that prohibit direct sales, requiring a franchise in the middle. There's a great Wikipedia entry that explains, with more to this drawn-out saga exposed in journalist David Pogue’s Why you can't buy a Tesla in these states:
Connecticut has considered letting Tesla enter the state every legislative session since 2014; each time, Fleming has successfully shut the effort down.
That’s right. In some states, Tesla is not allowed to open dealerships.
I live in one of them: Connecticut. Two years ago, I added myself to the waiting list for the Tesla Model 3. This summer, I finally picked it up—in New York. As I drove it back home over the state border, I wondered why Connecticut would want to hand over all the sales tax I just paid to a rival state.
It's a good sign that all three direct-sales EV companies - Lucid Motors, Rivian, Tesla - were well-prepared and well-spoken, patiently staying the whole day to hear out the many business owners and citizens, like myself.
This is not just a “Tesla bill” anymore, it’s an EV bill.
President of the EV Club of CT Barry Kresch summarized the day:
Of the 76 written comments and a full day of Zoom testimony, every consumer that testified was in favor of passing this bill.
That said, dealership interests are powerful, so who knows how this will turn out. We'll have to wait and see.
One argument that popped up was about jobs, see also this detailed study:
Acadia Center examined auto dealer employment statistics for nearby states that allow direct sales, and the results indicate that there has been no negative impact on this industry’s job levels or trends.
Tesla has a Service Center in Milford CT, so it seems Lucid Motors and Rivian would want to build service center(s) here too. Prompt service and collision repairs are crucial to improving the ownership experience for any car, things happen no matter what or how you drive.
Predictably, there was some FUD-slinging during the course of the proceedings. Polite EV owners later chimed in and politely corrected most of the misinformation. For example, Connecticut sales tax is still very much collected when Connecticut buyers get their Teslas in NY, see for yourself, I published our family's delivery papers in this article, showing the 6.35% CT Sales Tax paid..
The world has changed in the 2 years since a similar bill was proposed:
- We heard that every year, more and more constituents let their lawmakers know they want to get their EVs in state.
- Safe, touchless deliveries were mastered quickly by Tesla, the only US car maker whose sales grew in 2020
- Tesla is no longer hovering anywhere near the brink of bankruptcy, that argument is long gone
- More no-franchise car dealership businesses are poised to start delivering vehicles this year, such as the Lucid Air and the Rivian R1T pickup truck.
- Franchised traditional dealerships are now delivering Ford Mustang Mach-E and VW ID.4, admittedly in limited numbers while production ramps up, and sometimes at elevated prices while demand far exceeds supply.
- Nearly all major automotive manufacturers have announced that they are going all in on EVs, and a few have started delivering in volume.
- The age of practical EVs with long ranges has arrived.
Another argument was about franchise dealership's freedom to set prices locally. Lucid, Rivian, and Tesla set prices, and will compete with one another on price and service on a national level. The buyer orders online with no haggling. How many millennials do you know that would just love to argue over the price of one of their biggest purchases?
There were also discussions around maintenance. As several speakers pointed out, EVs don't need as much maintenance. This is not a Tesla thing, it's an EV thing. A new reality that traditional dealers will need to adapt to.
Enough of my words, have a listen for yourself, with a wide variety of perspectives.
I've created a video library of all the key clips that relate to this article.
Listed in the order they appeared. The transcripts I created below each video are just excerpts, I encourage you to listen to the full 3 minutes of each segment.
I would submit we need not speculate as some have done about the potential ramifications of enacting this law in Connecticut. We can say with certainty that it has resulted in millions of additional dollars of investment and taxes in retail and service locations, as well as the hiring of hundreds of retail and service technicians. And, equally important, more choices for consumers. All without having a detrimental impact on existing franchise dealers or their contractual relationships with the manufacturers that they currently represent. These are the facts, this is not a zero-sum game. It is a net win for consumers and the state.
Allowing direct sales of EVs is the most effective, budget neutral, and market friendly way to accelerate EV adoption. States that allow direct sales have higher EV adoption rates than states with direct sales prohibitions, even in the absence of other incentives. Beyond meeting the state's EV goals, direct sales will bring in new investment from companies like Rivian to hire local contractors construction workers to design and build retail locations. We would also hire local staff, invest in and become part of the community, and pay taxes. Current law deters these investments...
Our mission is to accelerate the world's transition to sustainable energy ... The transportation sector is the largest emitter of greenhouse gasses in the state ... Most recently, Connecticut is one of only 3 states along with the District of Columbia to join the transportation climate initiative program, this was an extraordinary display of leadership and commitment to goal of reducing transportation emissions. This bold policy choice further highlights how out of step the current ban on direct sales from EV manufacturers is with the state's transportation policy goals. The data is clear, making it easier to buy EVs is a key driver of adoption.
This bill is designed to accelerate electric vehicle adoption by increasing buyer choice. It would welcome a new generation of electric vehicle manufacturers who don't necessarily have that existing franchise dealer relationship in Connecticut.
Listed in the order they appeared.
There's actually growth in sales when you allow competition, when you allow direct to consumer sales.
Analiese then shared a negative Nissan Leaf service experience and a positive Tesla service experiences, and many other very helpful stories and clarifications.
... We’re also thankful for the $7500 federal tax credit, and Connecticut’s CHEAPR rebate for $1500, that together made each of these stretch purchases possible for us these past 2 years. I publish a lot about the experiencing of driving these EVs over 40,000 miles, from Canada to DC, mostly for my day job in IT, by far the safest and least cost per mile 4 door sedan choice in the entire automotive market. In my blog, readers first learned about 3rd generation Superchargers, and Tesla picked Connecticut as the first location anywhere in the entire Northeastern US
Connecticut’s unfortunate stance is only going to get more pronounced as the very promising Rivian and Lucid Motors try to come to market this year, and the optics of Connecticut being so far behind all its northeastern neighbors aren’t good, especially in this age of increasingly influential social media.
Allowing innovative new companies into the state brings investment and youth into the state. These are forward-looking, environmentally-friendly businesses.
Our club supports all EVs. We also support innovation, putting consumers first, and accelerating the rate of EV adoption in the state. SB 127 checks all these boxes.
The police department in Westport bought a Model 3 which they fully customized for law enforcement, which had to be developed from scratch for the Tesla. The car has been a big hit, and they've received hundreds of inquiries from around the world. The two companies that did this work see a big potential market, and they're Connecticut companies, one is in Chester, the other is in West Haven.
I learned of Fleet Auto Supply of West Haven, CT and Whelen Engineering of Chester, CT when researching my article about Westport Connecticut's Tesla Police car. Also interesting that
Westchester County's Hastings-on-Hudson Police Department's new Tesla Model Y was outfitted at Whelen in Connecticut too.
... what I'm trying to create is build a facility that allows customers to come on property for more than just gas or more than just charging your electric vehicle.
This is great! On a related note, I've frequently shared my enthusiasm for the convenience of combined convenience store / EV charging, as seen at Sheetz and Wawa, and I had a little fun with Cumberland Farms too.
Unedited submission pasted below:
From: Paul Braren
Sent: Thursday, February 18, 2021 5:27 PM
Subject: Transportation Pubic Hearing 2/19/21 - Testimony on SB 127 by Paul Braren of Wethersfield, CT
I support SB 127, for direct sales of EVs in Connecticut.
It will speed the adoption of EVs here, improve the air we breathe, and maybe even make it possible for our small state to meet the goals of the “Electric Vehicle Roadmap for Connecticut” and “Southern New England’s Transportation and Climate Initiative Program”.
It’s not a good look for CT, being one of very few states remaining where citizens can’t purchase the far-and-away best-selling EVs in the US, made by Tesla in California. They’re far ahead of the rest of the auto industry in meaningfully accelerating the transition to sustainable energy, have passed sales of 1 million EVs last year, are trending toward lowered prices, and are growing production at a rate of 50% per year on average. They’re the only US car company whose sales increased in 2020. Yet, you still can’t get one here.
Connecticut’s unfortunate stance is only going to get more pronounced as the very promising Rivian and Lucid Motors join Tesla in trying to sell and service EVs here too, only to soon realize how hostile our business environment is to their direct sales. The optics of behind on this aren’t good.
Like any industry, the EV industry needs healthy competition to accelerate its growth and offer consumer’s more choices. Allowing innovative new companies into the state brings investment and youth into the state. These are forward-looking, environmentally-friendly businesses.
Thank you for your time and consideration.
Founder of TinkerTry.com, LLC
VMware VCP 2681 in 2005, vExpert since 2014
@paulbraren | LinkedIn
TinkerTry IT @home. Efficiency, virtualization, storage, backup and more.
Yesterday, Rivian sent Connecticut's reservation holders the following letter. I redacted the name, email address, and some URLs.
Date: February 19, 2021 at 7:32:39 PM EST
Subject: Working together toward EV ownership in Connecticut.
Dear Rivian Community Member,
Help us ensure your right to buy and take delivery of electric vehicles in Connecticut!
EV enthusiasts in Connecticut are rallying around SB 127, a bill that would enable Rivian to make vehicle sales directly to customers.
This bill’s passage means that electric vehicle companies like Rivian will be able to obtain a state dealer license directly. Without this legislation, Rivian and other EV manufacturers won’t be able to open retail sites, offer test drives, or sell directly to consumers. Don’t worry – whether or not this legislation passes, you’ll be able to buy and take delivery of your Rivian! The success of SB 127 simply protects your rights to learn about and purchase EVs in your home state.
Connecticut’s dealer associations oppose this bill. We’re asking that you and the broader EV community make your support for SB 127 known.
Here’s how you can help:
Earlier today, there was a hearing on SB 127. Rivian, other industry members, and interest groups all testified in favor. Please lend your voice by urging your representatives to advance this legislation. The easiest and most effective way to have your voice heard is to email your representative telling them you support this bill.
Click here to find your representative and email or call saying that you support holding a vote and passing SB 127. If you’re sending an email, please also include Roland Lemar, the Chair of the Transportation Committee, as a recipient. Email: email@example.com.
To learn more about the benefits of direct sales, please read this blog post by the EV Club of Connecticut.
Thank you for helping us keep the world adventurous forever.
- Westport Connecticut Police first to use Tesla battery pack for new Model 3 Police Cruiser's accessories and lights, replacing 10 mpg cruiser with fast, safe, and efficient EV
Feb 23 2020
- Affordable and convenient way to get Tesla cables off the garage floor, trip-free charging from above!
Feb 01 2020
- New Bill Could Net More Tesla, Ford And GM EV Buyers A $7,000 Tax Credit
Feb 15 2021 by Henry Khederian at Yahoo Finance
What Happened: $7,000 of tax credit may soon be given to hundreds of thousands more U.S. electric vehicle buyers with a potential overhaul of purchasing incentives coming to the states.
- Rivian Alerts Reservation Holders in CT, Urges Support of SB 127
Feb 20 2021 by EV Club of CT
Rivian mobilizes reservation holders for support
For those holding reservations for an electric pickup truck or SUV from new EV-exclusive manufacturer Rivian, where and how they will get possession of their vehicle when deliveries begin later this year remains unknown.
- SB 127 Direct Sales Bill Public Hearings Held on 2/19
Feb 20 2021 by EV Club of CT
A virtual public hearing was held yesterday by the legislature for this bill. Both written and oral comments were solicited.
Of the 76 written comments and a full day of Zoom testimony, every consumer that testified was in favor of passing this bill. It is still opposed by dealerships and the OEMs. Nothing has changed.
It is difficult to read the tea leaves ...
- It Is Time for EV Freedom
Jan 08 2021 by Barry Kresch at EV Club of CT
Governor Lamont has signed onto the Transportation Climate Initiative (TCI), a regional cap and invest plan. At the same time, the state is falling behind the goals set forth in the Multi-State Zero Emission Vehicle Action Plan. The time has come to permit direct sales of EVs in CT.
- Kim Paquette, Tesla Full Self-Driving Beta Tester, to Speak to Club
March 11 @ 7:00 pm - 8:30 pm - FREE
Kim Paquette is one of the few who have experienced the FSD in the wild as a beta-tester. She will tell us about her experiences.
- Why you can't buy a Tesla in these states
Oct 15 2018 by David Pogue for Yahoo Finance.
- Electric Vehicle Roadmap for Connecticut
The Electric Vehicle Roadmap for Connecticut (EV Roadmap) represents a comprehensive strategy for accelerating the deployment of electric vehicles (EVs) through policies and regulatory tools addressing transportation equity, purchasing incentives, consumer education, charging infrastructure expansion, consumer protection, integration of EVs into the electric grid, utility investment, and utility rate design.
- Transportation and Climate Initiative (TCI)
The Transportation and Climate Initiative (TCI) is a regional collaboration of 12 Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states and the District of Columbia that seeks to improve transportation, develop the clean energy economy and reduce carbon emissions from the transportation sector. The participating states are: Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Virginia.
The initiative builds on the region's strong leadership and commitment to energy efficiency and clean energy issues, and its programs to reduce carbon emissions in the power sector, which have resulted in the region becoming one of the most energy efficient areas in the nation. At the same time, the effort underscores the sense of urgency shared by all 13 jurisdictions, and their collective aspirations to become the leading region for sustainability and clean energy deployment in the country.
Recognizing that more than one third of all carbon emissions come from the transportation sector, participating states started taking action through working groups focused on regional priorities, such as clean vehicles and fuels. Several TCI states are also now working together to explore potential regional policies to improve transportation systems and reduce pollution.
Transportation Pubic Hearing 2/19/21 Speaker Order February 19, 2021 Order First Name Last Name Organization Job Title 1 Kevin Dillon Connecticut Airport Authority Executive Director 2 John Henshaw & Johnson & david Kooris Connecticut Port Authority "Executive Director & board member" 3 Kevin Kelly Senate Republicans Senate Republican Leader 4 Will Haskell State Senator, 26th District 5 Jason Rentkowicz New Haven Police Department Lieutenant 6 Harry Arora CGA State Rep 7 Sen. Paul Formica CGA Senator 8 Al Paolillo Connecticut General Assembly State Representative 9 Michael Passero City of New London Mayor 10 Anthony Nolan Connecticut General Assembly State Representative 11 Keith Hedrick City of Groton Mayor 12 Matthew Lesser CGA State Senator 13 Zachary Kahn Tesla Senior Policy Advisor 14 Greg Allard Association of CT Ambulance Providers President 15 Jeff Hugabonne Connecticut Broadcasters Association" 16 Jeff Aiosa Connecticut Automotive Retailers Association" Legislative Co-Chair 17 Terry Poley 18 Karl Jacobson New Haven Police Department Assistant Chief 19 Chrissy Monaco Monaco Ford Co-Owner 20 Rob Glaspy CAPE 21 Samantha Dynowski Sierra Club CT State Director 22 William Hughes Retired 23 Michael Frisbie Noble Energy Real Estate Holdings Owner 24 Zell Steever Groton Resiliency and Sustainability Task Force Chairman 25 James Furlong Groton Conservation Advocates Writer 26 Christopher Regan Sr 27 Steve Taranko 28 Charles Rothenberger Save the Sound Climate & Energy Attorney 29 Peter Jones None Retired 30 Kim Curtin Curtin Transportation Owner 31 Debbie DiAngelo 32 Daniel Witt Lucid Motors Public Policy Lead 33 Michael Liebow 34 Analiese Paik 35 Anthony LaPenta 36 Sandy Duffy 37 Hayden Reynolds Reynolds Subaru 38 Dan West Rivian Director of Public Policy 39 Christopher Fryxell Associated Builders & Contractors President 40 Seth Totten 41 Yvette Sanchez Gengras Motor Cars 42 Paul Garavel Garavel Chrysler, Jeep Dodge RAM President 43 Paul Braren TinkerTry.com, LLC "Efficiency-themed blogger & videographer" 44 Wayne Weikel Alliance for Automotive Innovation Senior Director 45 Frank Gasparro Hamden Hall Country Day School 46 David Fay The Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts President and CEO 47 Katherine Stainken Plug In America Policy Director 48 Suzanne Ellery Pfizer, Inc Site Affairs Lead 49 Aetna Ambulance Service Mara Aetna Ambulance Service EMT Supervisor Aetna Ambulance Service 50 JAMES FEEHAN NEFEA President 51 Clifton Vachon 52 Rahul Shah 53 Barry Kresch EV Club of CT President 54 Chip Gengras Gengras Motor Cars