Georgia’s senate bill would allow Rivian to sell e-vehicles directly to consumers.

Gov. Brian Kemp has already requested that the state invest $125 million on land and cost of training for the new Rivian electric-vehicle plant, and senators have now introduced a law that would allow the company to sell her EV trucks directly to Georgians.

Senate Bill 398, sponsored by Sen. Ben Watson, R-Savannah, and co-sponsored by Sen. Burt Jones, R-Jackson, sets up a legal battle between electric-vehicle companies and Georgia’s politically powerful auto dealership lobby.

It could also pit Jones, who is running for lieutenant governor with the endorsement of former President Donald Trump, against one of his opponents, Senate President Pro Tem Butch Miller, R-Gainesville, a car dealer who has received significant financial support from the industry. Jones’ family also owns an automobile dealer company.

While they’re still working on the full details of the incentive package, Kemp’s spending plan, which was released earlier this month, calls for $112 million in land acquisition and development at Rivian’s sprawling East Atlanta Mega Site. Normal is the location of the company’s other plant.

An additional $6.2 million would go toward designing a Quick Start training and recruitment facility, similar to the one that the state runs at the Kia Motors plant in West Point. A total of $5.4 million would be spent on “customized training and recruitment operations” to support the state’s expanding electric-vehicle industry.

Rivian has lobbied in recent years for a law that would allow it and other electric-vehicle companies to sell cars and trucks directly to Georgia consumers rather than through a local auto dealer.

Last year, the legislation to allow such sales stalled in the House.
According to the new electric-vehicle manufacturers, auto sales of all types have skyrocketed at franchise dealers since the Tesla bill was passed. This, they argue, demonstrates that Tesla’s direct sales have not driven car dealerships out of business.

However, car dealers, many of whom sell less-expensive electric vehicles made by large manufacturers such as Nissan, are concerned that allowing builders to sell their vehicles directly to consumers will cost them jobs. They also claim that electric-vehicle manufacturers will not perform local maintenance on the vehicles they sell.

According to the Georgia Automobile Dealers Association, the state’s dealer model, which employs tens of thousands of Georgians, provides additional consumer protections, such as assisting with manufacturer recalls.

According to lawmakers who have supported the association, auto dealers have been the “backbone of the automobile industry for decades.”

After announcing the Rivian deal in the fall, Lea Kirschner, president of the Georgia Automobile Dealers Association, said Georgian’s automobile dealers and their 70,000 employees throughout the state look forward to working with Rivian to distribute their electric vehicles to consumers when they become available, under Georgia’s existing franchise dealer laws,”

Rivian officials responded by pointing to the company’s planned $5 billion investment in the Georgia plant and the jobs it would create, arguing that lawmakers should give consumers more options when purchasing cars.

Rivian is making an unprecedented multibillion-dollar investment in Georgia to create 21st-century jobs and advance America’s technological leadership,” Chen said. “By passing HB 398, Georgia’s leaders can support American jobs while also empowering consumers.”

Auto dealers anticipated a legislative battle even before the Rivian agreement was formally announced. When the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported in November on possible incentives for Rivian, it mentioned the current sales law, which requires manufacturers to sell their vehicles through Georgia dealerships.

“Georgia’s franchise dealer model is enshrined in state law to serve consumers, keep dollars local, and preserve competition,” said the association’s president.

“It should not be altered for out-of-state companies seeking an unfair entry into Georgia’s new-vehicle market, even if they build a manufacturing facility in the state.”

Brandy Fietsop
Brandy is a contributor at The Volter and she is a passionate writer.

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