A bipartisan group of Connecticut officials called Wednesday for Ford Motor Company to pump the brakes on a Friday deadline for dealers across the nation to opt into costly new requirements for selling the company’s electric vehicle models.
Legislators from both parties and a representative of the Connecticut Automotive Dealers Association objected to the roll out of Ford’s new Model e Program during a remote press conference.
The program, part of a recent restructuring by the manufacturer, gives auto dealers until Friday to decide whether they will make as much as $1.2 million in infrastructure and other investments in order to qualify as Model e Certified or Model e Certified Elite dealers capable of selling electric vehicles.
Although Ford pushed its initial Oct. 31 deadline back to Dec. 2 amid dealer concerns, state lawmakers said Wednesday that the manufacturer’s approach was still too aggressive and had prompted complaints from dealer franchises across Connecticut.
U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, a former state attorney general, called Ford’s treatment of its dealers “egregious” and said it may have violated state and federal law.
“I’m convinced there is a case that needs to be investigated here,” Blumenthal said. “I’m going to be taking this case to other state authorities including the attorney general, but I think also should be of interest to the Federal Trade Commission, its franchise rules may also be violated here.”
William Tong, the state’s current attorney general, provided a statement read by Rep. Roland Lemar, a New Haven Democrat who co-chairs the legislature’s Transportation Committee, which called on Ford to ensure that the burden of new EV infrastructure investments did not fall solely on local dealerships.
Ford Motor Company did not immediately respond to a request for comment on this story.
Several officials during Wednesday’s press conference praised the auto manufacturer for its choice to move into electric vehicle sales. However, they took exception to its decision to level a costly ultimatum on dealers.
Jeff Aiosa, legislative co-chair of the Connecticut Automotive Retailers Association, said the program as it’s currently structured looked likely to leave some smaller Connecticut franchise dealers unable to sell electric vehicles due to the cost of entry into the market.
“Depending on how big your dealership is, you may never experience a return on investment because it’s a fixed price,” Aiosa said. “One point two million is the same price for a dealer that sells 100 cars a year as opposed to a dealership that sells three or four thousand vehicles a year. It’s a very difficult program.”
Aiosa was unsure how many of Connecticut’s 28 Ford dealerships would opt to participate in the program.
In some ways, the objections expressed Wednesday to Ford’s new program mirrored opposition to recent unsuccessful attempts by Tesla and other exclusively electric auto manufacturers to carve out an exemption to Connecticut’s requirement that auto companies sell their products through franchised dealerships.
Sen. Heather Somers, R-Groton, said Ford was making an overt attempt to undermine Connecticut’s franchise dealerships who she said have supported Connecticut communities through jobs and automotive service.
“The amount of investment required for our local dealers is staggering, absolutely staggering,” Somers said. “The timeframe in which they are supposed to read and respond, it’s just outrageous. It’s unacceptable and really is just an invalid request.”
Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle encouraged Ford to reconsider.
“I think we all are going to call on Ford strongly post this meeting to rescind these terms and to restart this conversation,” Lemar said. “If they don’t, I can assure them based upon what we’ve heard today that there will be repercussions on both the state and federal level.”