Freedom To Buy
Frequently Asked Questions

Many states already allow EV manufacturers to sell directly to consumers and businesses: Arizona, California, Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Idaho, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, New Hampshire, Oregon, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, and Wyoming.

There is a lot of upfront capital investment needed to manufacture vehicles and pay employee salaries. Under a direct-to-consumer sales model, as soon as vehicles are manufactured, they are delivered right to the customer without stopping at a dealership..

The business model for the existing franchise dealers also appears at odds with a business only selling EVs:

  • As soon as the cars are manufactured by an EV-only manufacturer, they are delivered directly to the customer, without stopping at a dealership. Further, new EV manufacturers do not have the volume of EVs available to stock traditional franchise dealerships.
  • Traditional franchise dealerships make nearly 50% of their revenue from the service and maintenance of the vehicles. EVs have 10 times fewer moving parts and require far less service and maintenance. The car companies only selling EVs have a business model that doesn’t profit off the service portion of the vehicles; therefore, selling direct to the customer works best.
  • The franchise dealers make a commission from their sales, which encourages the sale of higher-priced vehicles. New EV manufacturers offer a standard product at a set price, without commission.
  • EVs are a new product compared to gas vehicles. For a franchise dealer, time is money and it typically takes longer to close the sale on an EV. Having a standard product at a set price, as with by the direct-sales model, allows the customer to ask more questions about driving electric and not feel pressured to buy.

Traditional automakers are also rethinking the relationship between dealerships and EVs and exploring the possibility of giving consumers and businesses the choice between both options. In 2020, GM offered a buyout to Cadillac dealerships that chose not to invest in the EV transition; one in five accepted the offer. In 2021, Volvo announced that, as the brand goes all-electric, all of its vehicle sales will be done online and it will only use the existing dealer networks for test drives and service.

Yes, you can still buy vehicles from these companies by ordering online. The vehicle’s delivery will usually be to a designated pick-up location or to your home via a delivery truck. But when state laws prevent direct sales, some EV companies cannot establish physical retail locations, conduct test drives, hire product specialists to answer questions, or teach customers about new vehicle technologies, and will likely require maintenance to be performed out of state.

Data show that franchise dealers and the direct sales model are so far successfully co-existing. Some dealerships oppose giving consumers and businesses the freedom to buy direct, even though in states that allow direct sales, there has been no documented harm to existing dealerships and business models. Traditional automobile sales and dealer revenue have increased nationwide since 2012, when Tesla began selling to customers directly. New U.S. automobile sales increased from 15.8 million units in 2013 to 17.5 million units in 2019—and revenue for the dealership industry has increased from $676 billion in 2012 to more than $1 trillion in 2019, according to the National Automobile Dealers Association.

In states that allow customers the freedom to buy direct, the dealership industry has thrived—with more of dealerships outperforming the national average in sales and employment.

Research also shows that consumers want choice. A recent report from Cox Automotive  showed that only 1 in 3 consumers is “very satisfied” with the current dealership model, demonstrating an opportunity and need for improvements.

The report also found that

  • 7 in 10 consumers find the idea of a “Brand Experience Center”—separate from a traditional dealership – to be an appealing concept.
  • 6 in 10 consumers want help from dealership staff—a product specialist, not a salesperson—to learn more about products. For this reason, the concept of Brand Experience Centers performed very well in research, as the no-sales environment provides a chance for shoppers to experience the vehicle on their own terms.
  • Research also shows consumers are more likely to trust brands that offer no-hassle experience centers, with product displays and opportunities to drive a vehicle. Slightly more than half of consumers surveyed by Cox Automotive indicated they would likely switch to a brand that offered this concept.

In the event of corporate bankruptcies or product recalls, consumer protections are provided by state governments and bankruptcy courts, not by dealerships. This is the same for both electric and gasoline vehicles. The consumer is still protected.

Each state has a different story; some states have always been open for direct-to-consumer sales, some state legislatures have worked proactively to open the state, some state legislatures closed the door after Tesla began opening retail locations, and, in some cases, the state supreme court ultimately decided the outcome. No matter the history, preventing consumers from the freedom to buy from new EV manufacturers limits the EV marketplace, inhibits consumer choice, and does a disservice to the state’s economy.

The sooner the EV market grows and more makes and models are offered to consumers, the sooner more EVs will turn over into the secondhand market. The secondhand market is generally where lower-income customers purchase their . Currently, 80% of EV sales are done through direct sales; states should be doing all they can to increase consumer choice and allow for direct sales to accelerate this adoption.




Amy Malaki

Amy Malaki is the Director of Partnerships and Policy at SkyNRG and SkyNRG Americas, pioneering global leaders in sustainable aviation fuel production and supply. Prior to SkyNRG, Amy was the Associate Director for the transportation portfolio at the ClimateWorks Foundation where she developed philanthropic investment strategies to advance a sustainable, equitable and low-carbon mobility system. She also pioneered the organization’s international aviation decarbonization strategy. Prior to that she focused on Asia business development at Better Place, a Silicon Valley electric vehicle network startup. She has a B.A. in Chinese and China studies from the University of Washington and an M.A. in international policy studies (energy and environment) from Stanford University.