Tesla has long lobbied to change state dealer franchise laws, and its rising opponent in the marketplace – General Motors – has shown itself willing to do the same in opposition
Today the maker of the Chevy Bolt EV intended to go against Tesla’s promised Model 3 gave a joint press conference with the Connecticut Automotive Retailers Association (CARA) and the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers taking a stand against pro-Tesla legislation.
The news precedes a state committee meeting tomorrow to discuss the merits of Senate Bill 3, An Act Concerning the Licensing of New and Used Car Dealers.
While Tesla’s name is not on the bill, the proposed legislation is understood to be written to open an exception to Tesla and others who may fit its requirements.
The bill is a renewed effort by lawmakers sympathetic to Tesla’s direct manufacturer-to-consumer sales model and would permit any electric car company without a physical presence in Connecticut to open up to three dealerships.
To opponents, however, it represents a separate set of rules, and is unacceptable.
“This bill creates an unfair playing field for Tesla,” said Jim Fleming, of CARA. “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.”
A similar point was added by the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers.
“The Auto Alliance represents companies that have done business in Connecticut for a century, and that business has been done efficiently through its network of auto dealers,” said Landon Fulmer of the Alliance. “Any industry wants all actors who operate in their sector to be treated equally under the law. Unfortunately, this bill provides a loophole for operations that benefit only one company. There are other states where Tesla has agreed to play by the rules we all abide by. The same should apply in Connecticut.”
In agreement also is General Motors, which has now lobbied publicly in at least five states including Connecticut.
“GM welcomes robust competition in the electric vehicle marketplace,” said Chris Grimaldi of General Motors. “But this bill creates two different sets of laws governing vehicle manufacturers in Connecticut. All manufacturers should play by the same rules.”
Tesla however has never agreed with this. The company has fought battles as needed across the country, and has won over some lawmakers, while other states have shut it out.
In a story by Westfair Communications last week, Jim Chen, Tesla’s VP of Regulatory Affairs and Associate General Counsel observed rules as they now are crafted stop Tesla in its tracks.
“Right now, even test-driving a Tesla requires Connecticut citizens to cross state lines.” said Chen. “It shouldn’t be so difficult for customers to try, and buy, an eco-friendly car that continues to set the forward-moving trends of the transportation industry.”
S.B. 3 is proposed by the Connecticut General Assembly’s transportation committee, and was co-sponsored by State Senate Majority Leader Bob Duff (D-Norwalk).
“Embracing electric vehicles continues the work we have done in Connecticut to bring new and emerging technologies into our state,” said Sen. Duff. “Allowing customers to purchase electric cars without leaving the state not only benefits our consumers, but also Connecticut’s economy.”
But others say the rules Tesla wants would hurt the state’s 270 independent auto dealers.
“That Tesla needs an exception to the franchise law because they sell electric vehicles doesn’t compute to me because we are already selling electric vehicles through the franchise system under numerous manufacturer’s brands in Connecticut today,” said Tamera Jackson of Jackson Chevrolet. “Tesla could do the same as quickly as it would take to sign a dealer agreement.”
Tomorrow CARA, the Alliance, GM – and no doubt Tesla – will be testifying before Connecticut’s Transportation Committee regarding S.B. 3.