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Colorado EV direct sales bill passes House

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The Colorado House on Thursday adopted a bill that would allow Rivian and other electric vehicle makers to sell directly to consumers, one of the last steps before it goes to Gov. Jared Polis.

The House’s 42-20 vote follows approval about two weeks ago in the state Senate. Senators will need to adopt a technical change the House made to the bill language before sending it to Polis for his signature, which could happen this week.

If Polis signs the bill into law, Colorado would allow manufacturers that only build electric vehicles to own, operate or control dealerships, provided they have no franchised dealerships in the state. Notably, the legislation no longer includes a provision that would have allowed any automaker that builds electric vehicles to sell them directly to consumers, following opposition by the Colorado Automobile Dealers Association that led to a compromise in the state Senate.

“We don’t think that any change was needed in the law,” said Tim Jackson, president of the state dealer association, which moved to a neutral stance on the revised bill.

CADA contends that EV makers such as Rivian, which had lobbied for the bill in Denver, already had the ability to open a factory store under current law. Rivian has said the law is ambiguous and the legislation would bring clarity to its ability to apply for a state dealer license.

“We’ll move forward accordingly,” Jackson told Automotive News. Dealers in the state are “not worried about that competition.”

James Chen, Rivian’s vice president of public policy, said Thursday in an interview that should the bill be enacted, the company will prioritize Colorado as it develops its retail strategy across the U.S. He declined to share specific details about how many stores Rivian might operate in the state or when it would be ready to apply for a dealer license in Colorado but said the company would begin scouting for potential sites in earnest.

Chen has said that Rivian is hesitant to invest in property and commit to long-term leases if it’s unclear that the company will be able to obtain a dealer license. Direct sales are part of Rivian’s business model, since it will build its electric trucks and SUVs to customer specifications and not mass-produced to sell on dealership lots, he said.

“I do want to thank the Colorado Auto Dealers Association for coming to the table and recognizing that what we were trying to do was not drive them out of business,” Chen told Automotive News. “At the end of the day, this is about consumer choice.”

A message was left with a Polis spokesman on whether the governor intends to sign the bill. State Sen. Chris Hansen, a Democrat from Denver and a bill cosponsor, previously told Automotive News the administration was involved in negotiating the compromise language. The administration has said it supports the bill and has made vehicle electrification a priority in the state.

If enacted, the law would take effect at the end of the 90-day window following the Colorado General Assembly’s adjournment for the year, according to the bill language. That would be Aug. 5, if the legislature adjourns May 6, according to the bill.

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