West Virginia has become the sixth state with a ban on Tesla sales after Governor Ray Tomblin signed new legislation last week.
The law, which passed the senate as State Bill 453, prohibits any car manufacturer from:
- Owning an interest in a dealership
- Operating a dealership
- Or acting in the capacity of a new motor vehicle dealer
Because Tesla sells its electric vehicles directly to customers instead of using a dealer, the new law will block any Tesla sales.
Ruth Lemmon, president of the West Virginia Automobile and Truck Dealers Association, said the bill wasn’t aimed directly at Tesla. Instead, it targets the factory-direct business model.
“Tesla could better serve the consumers, the local communities and their product by becoming a true business partner to all concerned,” said Lemmon.
“West Virginia would welcome (Tesla) to join the ranks of dealerships and play by the same rules and requirements and laws we must do.
A store in West Virginia would have allowed Tesla to connect easily with consumers in Washington D.C. and in the bordering states of Kentucky, Maryland, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Virginia. But the state itself is a relatively limited market, and probably would directly contribute very few buyers for Tesla.
“I don’t see (West Virginia) as a big priority on Elon’s to-do list,” said Kelley Blue Book analyst Karl Brauer, referring to Tesla CEO Elon Musk.
Musk seemingly agrees, as noted in a tweet he posted the same day Governor Tomblin signed the bill:
Another Tesla executive wasn’t as dismissive, and released a more direct response.
“Despite a campaign based on pro-business and free market principles, the Senate president’s bill prevents competition and protects the car dealer monopoly,” said Jim Chen, vice president of regulatory affairs and associate general counsel at Tesla Motors, in a written statement.
“West Virginians deserve the right to choose how and from whom they purchase their vehicles. We will return next year to fight for consumer choice and free market access.”
Arizona, Texas, Iowa, Michigan and Maryland are listed by Automotive News as the other states with laws currently on the books to prevent Tesla sales.
Despite losing ground in West Virginia, Tesla has made headway elsewhere. Earlier this month, Governor Chris Christie approved a bill to allow Tesla sales to resume in New Jersey. Legislators in Arizona, Texas and Georgia are also debating state laws for consumer-direct vehicle sales.