The ongoing battle between electric automaker Tesla Motors and auto-dealer associations has flared up yet again, and this time it’s in the midwestern — and rapidly reddening — state of Missouri. What’s more, the legislation in question — a modification to a previously benign bill — is being voted in to law without any public consultation.
If passed before the end of the current session, Missouri will join New Jersey, Texas and Arizona in effectively prohibiting Tesla Motors [NASDAQ:TSLA] from selling its award-winning electric cars direct to customers in the state.
With less than a week left before Missouri’s current session comes to an end, pro-auto-dealer-association legislators have added some new language to bill HB 1124 which would make it only possible for residents of the state to buy new cars through franchised middleman dealers.
The bill has been circulating since December 2013 and was passed by the House, without the additional language on 17 April this year. It is sponsored by Glen Kolkmeyer (R) and Keith English (D). It was just last night that the bill with the new language passed through the Senate. This change to the language of the bill between the House and the Senate happened with no public consultation.
The next step in the process if for the bill to be voted for on the House floor. According to a blog post on Tesla’s site he change in language is not a small amendment. “It is completely unrelated to the original bill, which was about laws regarding all-terrain vehicles, recreational off-highway vehicles, and utility vehicles” they say. “It is also a complete 180 from what the original bill proposed.
The current statute only bars franchisors from competing against their franchisees (for example, Ford cannot compete against Ford dealerships).” If the language of the bill remained as it did when it passed the Senate, Tesla would not have any issues selling directly to residents of the state as it does not compete with an franchise. The amended test changes the scope of the bill and redefines the word ‘franchisor’ to mean ‘manufacturer’ which makes this bill become ‘anti-Tesla’.
Tesla states: “This is worse than a mere case of dealers trying to protect an existing monopoly – this is a case of dealers trying to create a monopoly” But Tesla does have some friends in high places.
A Federal Trade Commission official has already stated that they support Tesla’s ability to sell vehicles to consumers and AutoNation’s CEO Mike Jackson says Tesla should be allowed to sell direct to customers too. Tesla states that “this debate should be held in the full light of day with all sides being given an opportunity to make their case.” They go on to say that “the dealers are again trying to ram through a provision under the cover of darkness and without public debate. The people of Missouri deserve better from their elected officials.”
If you live in Missouri, and want to contact your elected official, you can do so here.
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