It comes as no surprise Ford is up against early legal battles related to the new certification plan for its dealers that aim to sell electric cars next year. The US automaker gave the dealers the ability to decide if they want to be "in" or "out," and dealers in three states are already claiming that the plans go against dealer franchise laws.
In short, Ford reached out to all of its US dealers to share its future EV sales and service strategies. In order for dealers to begin (or continue) selling EVs for the automaker next year, they must make an investment to ensure that they have what they need to successfully sell and service electric cars, trucks, and SUVs.
Ford asked the dealers to spend $1.2 million each on charging equipment, staff training, and other upgrades that are needed for EV sales and service. If a particular dealer doesn't want to make the investment, or simply isn't yet interested in selling and servicing electric vehicles, it doesn't have to. The dealer just has to let Ford know that it's not yet getting involved in the EV business.
Since then, the Arkansas Automobile Dealers Association filed a complaint, which was later followed by 27 Ford dealers in Illinois and four Ford dealers in New York. Meanwhile, dealers in 14 or more states have sent letters to Ford voicing their concerns. Moreover, US Senator Richard Blumenthal and other state lawmakers have also pushed back against Ford's plans.
Once dealers invest the money and agree to sell EVs, Ford says they also have to agree to work within a new set of rules. One of the rules that's rubbing some dealers the wrong way is "nonnegotiable prices." At least one of the lawsuits calls this unlawful. Rich Sox, a lawyer involved in the New York lawsuits, shared via Automotive News:
"Every dealer under the current franchise agreement has a right to every Ford vehicle manufactured with that nameplate on it, to include the newest EVs. They have a right to their fair allocation of those vehicles based on their market size, sales history, etc. This is about making sure all dealers have access to EVs and not being pigeonholed into one of three categories the program arbitrarily created."
Language from the other lawsuits follows suit with the quote above. Essentially, the dealers are saying that Ford is trying to limit them from selling the vehicles of the future and that it will eventually force them out of business. There are also complaints about excessive costs, the timeline, and much more.
Ford sent a reply to the publication via email claiming that its new certification rules are "consistent with all relevant laws." Dealers don't have to partake, they can choose to invest or not, and if they choose to invest a smaller amount, they can still sell EVs, just not as many. The automaker has also said that if a dealer doesn't opt in and invest now, it will have another chance to get involved in 2025.