Bill proposed to let Tesla sell in N.J.

Posted: March 26, 2014

TRENTON A New Jersey lawmaker has introduced a bill aimed at allowing electric carmaker Tesla to continue to operate under a business model banned by the state.

The bill, proposed by Assemblyman Timothy Eustace (D., Bergen), would allow any electric car manufacturer licensed by the state Motor Vehicle Commission to sell directly to consumers, instead of through a dealer.

Eustace said Monday that the bill was in response to a decision by the commission that Tesla has said will force it to direct prospective buyers to stores out of state.

The electric-car manufacturer, which accused Gov. Christie of cutting a deal with auto dealers to ban its direct-sales model, said that as of April 1, its New Jersey stores would become galleries, with cars for consumers to view but not purchase.

Christie has said existing law already requires that sales of new cars be conducted through a franchised dealer.

"Because of this new rule, an interested buyer looking for more fuel-efficient, environmentally friendly vehicle options can go look and ask questions about an electric car in New Jersey, but will have to go to Pennsylvania or New York if he or she actually wants to buy the car," Eustace, who drives an electric car, said in a statement. "How does sending business to other states help New Jersey's economy?"

The Motor Vehicle Commission first issued Tesla a dealer license in November 2012, a commission spokeswoman said.

At a town-hall event last week in Flemington, Christie said Tesla's business model "is not legal in New Jersey." He said Tesla had been temporarily permitted to operate under its direct-sales model to allow for an "effort to negotiate an agreement with the Legislature and the other interests in this."

"When they couldn't come up with an agreement, I finally had to put a stop to it," Christie said. If Tesla went to the Legislature to change the law, he said, "I'm happy to sign it."


mhanna@phillynews.com

609-989-8990

@maddiehanna

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