NADA, Tesla talk about retail model
Musk: Likes Apple's approach
Leaders at Tesla Motors Inc. and the National Automobile Dealers Association met late last month to discuss the trade association's concerns about Tesla factory stores.
Officials for both parties confirmed the meeting but declined to discuss specifics. Tesla CEO Elon Musk and NADA Chairman Bill Underriner attended the hour-plus meeting, held Nov. 29 at Tesla's headquarters in Palo Alto, Calif.
A spokesman for NADA described the meeting as constructive and positive.
"The meeting opens the way for an ongoing dialogue," said David Hyatt, a NADA vice president.
Underriner requested the meeting in October after dealers and dealer associations in several states complained that Tesla's store network violates state franchise laws prohibiting factory ownership of dealerships.
Tesla wants to sell its electric vehicles directly to consumers in boutique-style stores in high-end shopping districts. The automaker is modeling its approach on the Apple store experience and has hired George Blankenship, the former Apple executive who developed the technology company's retail network.
In October, Blankenship said Tesla welcomed the chance to talk with NADA officials about its retail model. "We fully support the laws that prevent a manufacturer from going in and harming existing franchised dealers," Blankenship told Automotive News. "We fully support what NADA does. We have no issue with them."
Underriner: Has a “mess of lawyers”
Dealers and dealer associations in Massachusetts and New York are suing Tesla, seeking the shutdown of its factory-run stores. They want Tesla to sell its vehicles using franchised dealerships.
NADA's Underriner, a Montana dealer, said manufacturers should comply with state franchise laws. NADA has no plans to join the legal action but said in October that "we will help" the state associations.
Underriner added: "We've got a whole mess of lawyers in Washington who work on state franchise law."
Company founder Musk has said Tesla does not want to change the franchise system. Tesla is being careful to comply with state and local laws as it rolls out its store network, Blankenship has said, and it won't waver on its approach.
In October, Blankenship said: "This is the model we're going to use."
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