Governor Christie said Tesla should lobby for a change in New Jersey law, and supporters are already trying just that.

Gov. Christie Blames Tesla, NJ Legislature For Tesla Store Ban

Yesterday, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie publicly tried to set record straight about a recent vote made by the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission to ban Tesla from selling direct to customers in the Garden State.

Like a traffic cop enforcing speed limit or an member of the ATF busting an illegal gun store, Christie says he was just enforcing the law.

“I’m not pushing Tesla out; the state Legislature did,” Christie said at a public town hall meeting in South River yesterday. “They passed a law — which is still on the books — which says if you want to sell cars in this state, you must go through an authorized dealer.”

“Outside the law”

“My job is not to make the laws. It’s to enforce the laws,” he continued. “Tesla was operating and we continued to warn them that they were operating outside the law.”

Christie claims Tesla ignored all of New Jersey’s warnings that it was operating outside of the law, continuing to operate in the state as if nothing was wrong. Yet Tesla CEO Elon Musk claimed last week in an official Tesla Motors [NASDAQ:TSLA] Blog that the state of New Jersey and Governor Christie himself had promised to put Tesla’s future in the state to a vote in the elected state legislature.

Tesla’s counsel also maintains that Christie and his administration had mediated months of dialogue between the electric automaker, the state Motor Vehicle Commission and powerful auto dealer lobbyists in an attempt to come to a suitable resolution.

Governor Christie says Tesla ignored warnings it was operating illegally.

Governor Christie says Tesla ignored warnings it was operating illegally.

Yet on Tuesday last week, the NJMVC unanimously passed a rule requiring all new cars — electric or otherwise — to be sold exclusively through third-part franchised dealers, something Musk alleges was “a backroom deal with the Governor to circumvent the legsilative process and pass a regulation that is fundamentally contrary to the intent of the law.”

“Make a new law”

“I have no problem with Tesla selling directly to customer, except that it’s against the law in New Jersey,” Christie said. “If Tesla wants to change [it] they can go to the 120 members of the state legislature and change the law.”

The solution, he inferred, was for Tesla to lobby representatives for a new law.

“Put a bill on my desk,” he continued. “I’m fine for Tesla to operate in this state but I can’t let them operate against the law, and that’s the simple fact of it. All the other stuff that they’re saying ignores the simple fact what they were asking for was an exception from the law.”

“I’m not the King,” he said. “I don’t get to grant exceptions to the law,” reiterating his claim that the administration tried to warn Tesla it was breaking the law.

In NJ, Tesla will be forced to convert its stores to 'galleries'. You won't be able to buy a Tesla there.

In NJ, Tesla will be forced to convert its stores to ‘galleries’. You won’t be able to buy a Tesla there.

“If the law changes, I’m happy to enforce the new law and let Tesla operate here,” he added.

Just the sheriff?

Christie’s self-portrayal as the sheriff of a small western town with a band of dedicated deputies trying desperately to keep the world safe from the ne’er do wells entering from afar was well executed and smooth.

In the ninety seconds or so that Christie took to answer the question there was no hesitation, no confusion. He spoke with forceful clarity, regret at Tesla’s alleged misdemeanors, the air of a disappointed parent forced to punish a his wayward teenage child who stayed out past their curfew.

On its own, without any background into Christie, his administration or Tesla, it’s easy to see that ninety-second soundbyte as the testimony of troubled lawkeeper trying desperately to fend off wrongdoers with the meagre resources he has. If we were newcomers to Christie’s frontier town, we would find his testimony compelling.

Yet when you’ve lived in the town a while, and you know the sheriff and his deputies are already facing mounting suspicion for many of their own misdemeanors and abuse of power, it becomes harder to know who to trust.

Do you believe Christie? Was Tesla to blame? Did Christie give Tesla fair warning? Or is this just the latest in a long line of carefully-crafted public statements designed to offer a counter-narrative to what really happened?

Leave your thoughts in the Comments below.


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  • Richard Glover

    If there is an existing law that Tesla were breaking why was it necessary to pass a new ruling? How many times have Tesla broken the supposed existing law?nAnd if laws have been broken by Tesla why is Elon Musk still free to walk the streets?

    • vdiv

      If they sold about a thousand Model S cars, a thousand times?nnThat means Christie’s administration also broke the law a thousand times by not enforcing the alleged law.

  • lad76

    Another Republican dirty trick and he is wrong. His job “is” to create laws. Governors create law all the time. He wasn’t paid off by Tesla so he won’t support their request. How can New Jersey people keep voting for these Koch controlled Republicans when they are suppressing your rights. You should be looking to impeach this guy.

  • Jaime Wilkesheski

    Ok, I’m a Tesla fan. I’m from Colorado where the Dealership Associations are also trying to keep Tesla from selling directly. I bought my last car in 2004, and back then I didn’t understand why I couldn’t buy my Honda like I bought my last Dell (direct, from a website). Thats when I first learned about franchise laws. I read Elon’s blog, and I wanted to KNOW for myself. Its taken about an hour of my life but I finally found the Laws that govern this, its NJ Statue 56:10. Section 27 seems pretty clear to me. I’m afraid, Elon is in the wrong currently. That said, its time to get these laws changed, to allow Tesla to directly sell to the public.nn56:10-27. Sales through franchises only n It shall be a violation of this act for any motor vehicle franchisor, directly or indirectly, through any officer, agent, employee, broker or any shareholder of the franchisor, except a shareholder of 1% or less of the outstanding shares of any class of securities of a franchisor which is a publicly traded corporation, or other person, to offer to sell or sell motor vehicles, to a consumer, other than an employee of the franchisor, except through a motor vehicle franchisee. nn L. 1985, c. 361, s. 2, eff. Nov. 12, 1985.

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