PhillyDeals: Tesla may use Texas model in New Jersey

Tesla Motors can't sell cars through its own stores in New Jersey because of state regulations.
Tesla Motors can't sell cars through its own stores in New Jersey because of state regulations. (BLOOMBERG)
Posted: March 14, 2014

Fancy electric-car maker Tesla Motors Inc. is mulling its future in New Jersey, since the state Motor Vehicle Commission on Tuesday passed rules Tesla says will protect established car dealers and prevent it from opening planned company-run car stores.

Texas, like New Jersey, has rules that make car companies sell through franchised dealers. So instead of company stores there, Tesla has "galleries," where it promotes cars but cannot disclose prices, or offer test drives.

Tesla is still reviewing its options, "so this model for New Jersey has not been confirmed," Tesla spokesman Patrick Jones told me.

Jack Musgrove, who commutes between homes in western Massachusetts and King of Prussia for his computer business, said he was looking forward to a promised Tesla charging station near the New Jersey Turnpike, which he now expects will be delayed.

He'll have to keep risking his 200-mile-range Tesla on 143-mile drives from his local apartment to Tesla's Darien, Conn., recharging station, then 160 more miles to his northern base.

Tesla also has a service center in an industrial pocket of Norristown, which Musgrove said is moving soon to a more visible Main Line site on Route 30.

Hugh Connelly of Shamong, who owns a Tesla, accused his state's politicians of protecting their campaign-donor friends instead of consumers. What would have happened to, Connelly asked, if it had to clear online sales through local stores?

Of course, that's the point: New Jersey car dealers don't want to end up like, say, the Borders bookstores Amazon helped push out of business.


Made in Philly

When the Export-Import Bank of the United States targeted civilian aircraft makers for $1 billion in credit support, two Philadelphia helicopter-makers soaked up half that total in just a year's time, says Fred Hochberg, the bank's chairman and president.

United Technologies' Sikorsky division accounted for about $400 million of the total. Its civilian "ships" - engineered in Florida, with rotors built in Connecticut - were assembled at Sikorsky's Keystone Helicopter plant near Coatesville, Chester County, which employs 875, according to Hochberg.

The other $100 million backed helicopters sold by Italian-owned AgustaWestland from its factory near Northeast Philadelphia Airport.

Buyers, in Brazil and northern Europe, included oil companies and search-and-rescue agencies. The makers hope to expand Asian markets, too.

"Aerospace is the No. 1 U.S. export after agriculture," Hochberg added. The bank focuses on civilian deals, which are harder to finance than the giant commercial and military contracts awarded suppliers like Boeing.

"If you buy for a foreign manufacturer, the financing always comes from a government. German, French and British governments finance at least a portion of Airbus exports," Hochberg said. So the United States is doing its part. Private lenders would charge lots more.



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