Friday, May 9, 2014

Missouri next state to attempt Tesla direct-sales ban

Tesla Tokyo

When Tesla Motors feels like its under attack, it is not afraid to speak out. After state lawmakers in New Jersey voted to close the electric vehicle company's stores there, the company said it was an "affront to the very concept of a free market" and CEO Elon Musk compared the situation to mafia tactics. In Ohio, when the company learned about a fast-moving challenge, it quickly asked its fans and owners for help. That same move is now taking place in Missouri, where Tesla said a "sneak attack" is happening that will "thwart due process and hurt consumer freedom in Missouri."

Tesla currently has one store in Missouri, in St. Louis (and wants to open another), but new language inserted into a bill that had previously been focused on off-road vehicles "would bar Tesla from selling its vehicles direct to consumers in the state," the automaker says. That doesn't seem like an exaggeration, since the bill explicitly states:

In enacting subsection 3 of this section, it is the express intent of the legislature to prevent any manufacturer of new motor vehicles from circumventing the public policy as stated in section 407.811, by engaging in methods of retailing new motor vehicles which are designed to avoid the provisions of sections 407.810 to 407.835.

Tesla says the bill's new language passed the Senate last night, "after zero public consultation and could soon move to the House floor for a final vote, essentially without debate." Tesla wants to get a debate started, so it makes its point in bold terms. "To be clear: 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," the company said.

Recently, some officials at the FTC said they thought anti-direct sales rules were "protectionist," which at least hints that a possible change is coming.
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