Virginia auto dealers reverse stance on state’s vehicle emissions rules

The Virginia Automobile Dealers Association is supporting state legislation that would impose California’s vehicle emissions standards and zero-emission vehicle mandates after initially opposing a similar measure last year and asking lawmakers to delay action on emissions rules until 2022.

Virginia’s House Bill 1965 — passed by the Senate last week and expected to be signed by Gov. Ralph Northam — adopts the more stringent auto pollution rules set by the California Air Resources Board and requires automakers to provide increasing percentages of ZEVs to their franchised dealers starting with the 2025 model year.

VADA CEO Don Hall said the association opposed the bill when it was introduced “without any complementary efforts to support EV adoption.”

The group has since pivoted from that position as the state’s lawmakers proposed a package of supplemental bills to support EV sales, including a point-of-sale rebate program, a study of infrastructure and incentives that will involve dealers and other stakeholders, and the inclusion of transportation electrification in the state’s energy plan.

All three measures related to advancing the adoption of EVs in Virginia were passed last week and were headed to the governor’s desk to be signed into law.

“Our leadership, to its credit, said: ‘Let’s lead from the front and let’s be the first state association to be very aggressive in saying OK, we’ll support this,’ ” Hall told Automotive News, adding that the state now must “put its money where the mandate is.”

Hall said a combination of factors — such as General Motors’ pledge in January to stop selling gasoline-powered vehicles by 2035 and other promises from automakers to reach certain carbon-neutrality and EV goals — also led the association to change direction.

The chief executive also cited the prospect of dealers getting to replace the state’s roughly 8.3 million internal combustion engine vehicles with zero-emission models.

“We’ve seen the light. We’ve seen the electricity,” he said.

“It’s time to step up, and let’s get with the program.”