AUTO DEALERS PUSH BACK AGAINST TESLA BILL
Representatives of car dealers held a press conference at the Capitol Tuesday calling legislation that would allow Tesla Motors to sell its electric cars directly to consumers "a corporate loophole."
A public hearing will be held on the bill Wednesday by the transportation committee. Supporters of the legislation say it would create jobs and bring tax revenue to the state.
But Jim Fleming of the Connecticut Automotive Retailers Association said it creates "an unfair playing field" by allowing a manufacturer like Tesla to sell directly to customers without utilizing the state's existing network of local car dealers.
"Granting Tesla a corporate loophole will circumvent longstanding consumer protections and jeopardize local businesses that have operated under these laws in good faith for over 40 years," he said.
"GM welcomes robust competition in the electric vehicle marketplace," Chris Grimaldi of General Motors said in a statement. "But this bill creates two different sets of laws governing vehicle manufacturers in Connecticut. All manufacturers should play by the same rules."
Tamara Jackson of Jackson Chevrolet in Middletown said Tesla doesn't need an exception to sell its electric cars to drivers in the state.
"We are already selling electric vehicles through the franchise system under numerous manufacturer's brands in Connecticut today," she said. "Tesla could do the same as quickly as it would take to sign a dealer agreement."
Supporters of the Tesla bill held their own press conference last month when the legislation was re-introduced. A proposal last year cleared the House but failed to come up for a vote in the Senate.
Unlike most other car companies, Tesla's business model calls for direct sales to consumers, an approach that is currently prohibited by law in Connecticut and many other states.
"Our business model is straightforward – we provide consumers with an opportunity to learn about the benefits of electric drive without high pressure sales tactics," said Jim Chen, Tesla's vice president of regulatory affairs and deputy general counsel.
Tesla operates a service center in Milford, but the company has said it would significantly increase its presence to include three retail locations if the bill were passed.