West Virginia Bans Tesla Sales
Earlier this month, West Virginia Governor Earl Ray Tomblin officially signed legislation to protect franchised auto dealers. However, this new legislation also prevents Tesla Motors Inc. from selling cars in the state. Although West Virginia is one of the smallest automotive markets, the state is strategically located to a number of potential customers in neighboring states with much bigger markets.
The debate over this particular legislation has lasted for weeks. Ruth Lemmon, president of the West Virginia Automobile & Truck Dealers Association, stated that it was not specifically an “anti-Tesla” bill — but it does hinder customers from purchasing the vehicle. “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.”
In order to clarify their position, Tesla lobbyists visited West Virginia in the hopes of amending the bill. They proposed a follow up amendment, which stated that any manufacturer could operate in the state as long as it has fewer than five stores. Unfortunately the House struck down Tesla’s proposed amendment, and instead accepted the Senate version of the bill, which didn’t include a Tesla provision.
Tesla Motors was very disappointed with the passing of bill. “West Virginians deserve the right to choose how and from whom they purchase their vehicles,” said Jim Chen, Tesla’s associate general. “We will return next year to fight for consumer choice and free market access in the 2016 legislate session.”
Additional states that have banned Tesla Motor’s direct sales strategy include Arizona, Michigan, Iowa, Texas and Maryland.