Tesla may be barred from sales activity in Texas, but it wants to build a new store in San Antonio, and has just received approval from the city’s planning commission.
The request now moves to the city council which will decide if it should rezone the land for Tesla’s proposed store.
Tesla isn’t applying for a license to sell cars in the area, but is asking the city to change the land use category on 4.563 acres from “mixed use center” to “regional center.” After a full review of the potential fiscal and neighborhood impacts, the planning commission approved the rezoning request.
“The subject property’s location along a major roadway and in an area that has seen rather extensive commercial development, make it appropriate for Regional Center land use classification,” stated the City of San Antonio’s Planning Commission. “The proposed amendment to Regional Center will provide consistency with the surrounding areas and allow the applicant to seek the appropriate ‘C-3 S’ zoning district. The proposed amendment to Regional Center land use will not significantly alter the land use pattern or character of the immediate area as the proposed change is compatible with the already-existing surrounding pattern of development.”
If the location is approved, it will become the third Tesla location in the state. The Houston Galleria and The Domain in Austin have floor models of the Model S and offer charging.
For all Texas locations, Tesla can display cars and explain the technology, but the company can’t sell or service vehicles. Current state law prevents the sales of new vehicles by the manufacturer, requiring a franchised dealer to broker sales. If a buyer wants to purchase a Tesla, or even get pricing, he is directed to the website or a representative outside of Texas. The automaker is also barred from servicing vehicles in Texas, even if they are purchased out-of-state.
The request in San Antonio follows a long and often heated battle for the automaker in the state. Tesla attempted to change the law in 2013, approaching Texas officials with the hope of amending legislation to allow its direct-to-consumers sales approach.
Despite offers from the Texas Auto Dealers Association (TADA) that would permit Tesla to maintain almost full control of the franchise dealer, CEO Elon Musk said he would use only company stores and adamantly defended his retail sales method.
“The ability to sell cars through Tesla-owned stores is important for sustainable transportation and is the best chance a new electric car company has of succeeding,” Musk told Texas legislators in 2013. “Our sales model allows for innovative technology to be more affordable to the broader population in an unconflicted way, without changing the dealer model for gasoline-powered cars.”
Because the Texas Legislature meets again in 2015, after its traditional one-year hiatus, Tesla has another opportunity this year to attempt a change at the legislative level. The automaker hasn’t said if will take a second stab at changing Texas’ law.