Just over a year ago, the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission passed a regulatory change at its annual meeting which not only made it impossible for automakers like Tesla Motors to sell direct to customers within the Garden State, but stripped Tesla of its existing dealer license.
Today, that regulation has been partially superseded by the signing of a new pair of bills by New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, making it possible once again for Tesla Motors [NASDAQ:TSLA] to operate its Tesla Stores and Service Centres within state limits.
Shortly after the NJMVC made its last-minute decision last year to prohibit automakers who did not have franchise agreements with franchised dealers from selling direct to customers within the states, Governor Christie had called on the elected officials of both upper and lower houses — as well as Tesla Motors itself — to seek a legislative resolution to the regulatory change if they were unhappy with the new rules.
“If Tesla wants to change [the NJMVC regulation] they can go to the 120 members of the state legislature and change the law,” he said last year, adding that “if the law changes, I’m happy to enforce the new law and let Tesla operate here.”
Almost immediately, various draft bills were introduced to the New Jersey legislature, all of which aimed to affect a regulatory change that would — to differing degrees — allow Tesla Motors to yet again own and operate its own Tesla Stores within New Jersey.
In fact, it took A3216 just a month and a day to unanimously pass the New Jersey Assembly 77 votes to 0, before making its way to the New Jersey Senate whereupon it became S2098.
Progress from there slowed down a little, taking nine months for the New Jersey Senate and its various committees to properly consider the bill. Last week, it passed the Senate Commerce Committee with unanimous support before being passed by the Senate in an open vote by a majority of 30-2, with no debate on Monday.
Signing the bill, this afternoon, Governor Christie welcomed the new legislation and praised the way in which the legislature had worked together to bring about the new law.
“I said las year that if the Legislature changed the law, I would sign new legislation put on my desk and that is exactly what I’m doing today,” he said in an official statement this afternoon. “We’re pleased that manufacturers like Tesla will now have the opportunity to establish direct sales operations for consumers in a manner lawfully in New Jersey.”
When the regulatory changes made by the NJMVC came into force on April 1 last year, Tesla Motors was given no choice but to turn its Tesla Stores into Tesla Galleries: mall-based establishments where Tesla could display its Model S for visitors to see and provide general information about electric vehicles but could not discuss pricing, options, or ordering a Model S. Moreover, Tesla could not sell or license any vehicles within the state.
The regulations also made it impossible for existing owners to book services at Tesla-owned garages, leading to some pretty bizarre and protracted problems for any Tesla customer looking for a way to get after-sales support for their car.
With the new law now on the books, Tesla can recovert its Galleries back into Stores, yet again allowing it to obtain official dealer licenses for its stores and sell its range of electric cars direct to customers within New Jersey.
It’s worth noting too that the new law mandates any zero emission vehicle manufacturers wishing to engage in direct sales at an established place of business within the state of New Jersey must also own and maintain a servicing facility within the state, meaning that Tesla can yet again open its service centres in New Jersey for business.
The only other stipulation of the law? That automakers who do operate their own stores within state report their sales direct to the New Jersey Division of Taxation annually.
Are you in New Jersey? Have you been frustrated by the past year? Are you glad to see the law changed?
Leave your thoughts in the Comments below.
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