Ohio Dealers Vs. Tesla: Sen. Patton (R) Proposes New Anti-Tesla Law

If there’s one thing we’re sure 2014 will contain, it’s a whole load more legislative wrangling between auto dealer unions associations and Tesla Motors [NASDAQ:TSLA]. And with barely two weeks in the year passed, it’s already begun.

Sen. Patton (R-Strongsville) wants to stop Tesla stores in Ohio

Sen. Patton (R-Strongsville) wants to stop Tesla stores in Ohio

Remember the devious, sneaky plot, spearheaded by Ohio Senator Tom Patton (R-Strongsville) to amend Senate Bill 137 — a bill meant to make work conditions safer for the men and women who work on Ohio’s highways — to include few paragraphs designed to prevent Tesla from selling its all-electric Model S in the state?

That amendment — AM-0443 — was defeated before the original bill passed unanimously, but now Transport Evolved has learned that the very same Senator — someone who has received more than $42,825 in campaign donations in the last nine years from pro-dealer entities — has tried yet again to get anti-Tesla legislation passed into Ohio Law.

Sen. Patton’s back-door attempt in December to introduce anti-Tesla legislation in the form of Amendment AM-0443 sought to make it illegal for Ohio to issue motor vehicle dealer license to any entity which was in any way connected to the automaker whose cars it wanted to sell.

Now his more overt attempt, in the form of Senate Bill 260, seeks to do exactly the same thing and coincides with a direct legal challenge currently being fought in the courts between various Ohio-based auto-dealer unions associations and Tesla Motors in which dealers claim Tesla is in violation of existing Ohio state law.

Talking with MediaTrackers last week, Sen. Patton said that SB260  was not an “anti-Tesla bill,” but was designed to “protect the businesses, the Ohio business, that have spent money building up their dealerships – employing Ohio salesmen, Ohio technicians, Ohio support staff, people who work here in Ohio.”

Yet Tesla’s stores in Ohio — of which there are already two — offer the same job opportunities to local people as any other auto dealer. The only difference is that their paycheque comes directly from Tesla, not from a franchised dealership.

Sen. Patton is adamant however, that Tesla’s business model is in some way dangerous, perhaps even subversive to the point of dangerous.

“Honda sells their cars through a Honda dealer network, okay,” he said. “What Tesla is trying to do is eliminate the dealer franchise agreement that we’ve established — it’s not a new business mode, it’s just a way around the existing one.”

To put this in a little context, it’s also worth noting that, according to campaign finance reports reviewed by MediaTrackers, Sen. Patton has received “at least $42,825 from state and national auto dealership owners, employees, and political action committees (PACs) between 2002 and 2013.”

tesla-london-frontWe’ll leave you to make your own minds up on what that means.

Senate Bill 260, co-sponsored by Senators Troy Balderson (R-Zanesville) and Cliff Hite (R-Findlay) has yet to be assigned to an Ohio Senate committee, but we’re expecting this particular battle between Tesla and Ohio’s auto dealer unions associations to carry on for months, maybe even years.

Given how passionately both sides feel, it’s likely Tesla’s case will eventually end up at a more senior court, quite possibly even the Supreme Court. The question is how long it’ll take to get there, and what the ultimate decision will be?

What do you think? Leave your thoughts in the Comments below. In the meantime, if you’d like to weigh in with a personal message to Ohio Governor John Kasich directly, you can do so here.

Many thanks to our friends at MediaTrackers.org for bringing us the latest twist in this ongoing battle.


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  • Another Republican opposed to excessive government interference in the free markets of capitalism….unless, of course connected to his buddies with special interests.

  • RAMGarden

    I also agree the free market should decide. If Tesla’s business model of direct sales and direct service with their Tesla “Rangers” service-in-your-driveway and the top of the line Model S loner program for extended services on your car then the free market would quickly show it to be a bad idea through lack of demand. But it seems that Tesla cannot build the cars fast enough to keep up with demand then we can infer that this business model is a good one so far? If you look around on the Tesla owners forums you can see the first hand experience and love for these cars in black and white.

  • Matt Beard

    From time to time I see some drama on TV where corrupt politicians ride roughshod over the public for personal gain, and I dismiss it as unrealistic. Then I read a story like this!

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  • FrankM

    Thankfully, the horrible, traditional car buying experience is dying off in the internet age. People are visiting fewer dealers before buying a car, they are doing more research online. Most dealerships have their inventory online. A car dealership these days is all about the contact form on their website.nnHere is all that a buyer cares about these days: “How much will you sell me this car for? how much will you give me for my trade-in? How soon will you get back to me beacuse I just contacted 3 other dealerships with the same questions?”

  • GrumpyCat

    The article’s strikeout reference to unions is dead accurate. The Dealer’s Association simply wants exclusivity for their members. This is a Right To Work issue. The Dealer’s Union does not want non-Union persons to be allowed to sell cars.

    • BongBong

      I agree completely. Definitely acting as a union in the political sphere anyways. I doubt that they’re a full blown union with benefits/fees though.

    • dissentist

      Yeah, I read that more as a jab at the republican politicians that are completely and utterly anti union, except in cases like this where it benefits their donors. Same with regulations, republicans are all about how bad regulations of any kind on business are, except when the regulations will protect their friends at the auto dealer associations or the large corporations.

    • Clay Adams

      Henry Ford had to fight an Automotive Manufacturer’s Association also. He won in court.

  • Tim Hawkins

    Daewoo did something similar back in the 90s,. They were selling through Sam’s Club and other outlets. This is happening in a lot of businesses. Bose sells a lot of their product direct.

  • PaulScott58

    These Republicans have no clue. They are missing the bigger point, that EVs use no oil. Ohio ships on the order of $15-$20 billion out of the state every year buying gasoline and diesel. They have no oil production, they just buy the refined product and use it to move their vehicles. Tesla cars use electricity that is generated locally or regionally. Kilowatt hours cost about 20 cents on the dollar compared to gasoline. As people transition to EVs, they’ll save about 80% of the money they used to spend, and the 20% they use to buy kWh will stay local. The other 80% is the consumer’s money to keep and spend on anything they like. Chances are, most of the money will be spent on local goods and services generating thousands of jobs.nnnRemember, they are sending about $20 billion out of their state’s economy every year. As that money begins to stay in Ohio and circulates through their economy, everyone will prosper.nnnOh, and they get a clean environment out of the deal as a bonus.

  • BongBong

    It just seems unfair to me that if the manufacturer wanted to sell their own products and bypass specific links in the supply chain, why can’t they?

  • lad76

    George Carlin said “People are Stupid.” Why is his thesis always proven by the people who keep voting these guys into office and watching them work against the best interests of the people? I can’t help but note they are Republicans.

  • alvord1430

    Just shows how silly government is. The government promotes the use of electric cars while simultaneously trying to prevent the sale of electric cars.

    • charlie_CA

      Different governments. The one promoting innovation is lead by Democrats while the one trying to prevent competition and reward its cronies is lead by Republicans. At least in this case.

  • Breffni

    My Irish mother Peggie use to say, When one Reaches the Age of Fifty, one has the face one deserves.

  • Adam Fritsch

    Just another money driven corporate whore

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  • Garn

    I think one of the most important things we can do isncontact Sen. Patton and others to show our support for companies likenTesla Motors. And as mentioned in the comments by PaulScott58, point out tonthem, and others, where Teslau2019s model would actually benefit them. I think ifnthe people of Ohio were made aware they would be in support of them.nnI contacted Sen. Pattonu2026. I hope some ofnyou will chose to do the same. He canu2019t ignore us if there are MANY of us.nnGarn

  • Dudenhofer

    From Germany : I`ll support you. We need innovation in that obsolete car buiseness. nnUSA country of boundless possiblities? I won`t by not only my smart phone or computer directly.nnI only would by a Tesla Motors car- directly.nnNikola Tesla said: “Who`s burning oil for production of energy is a brute.”