Tesla gets reprieve in Missouri

Missouri state legislators scrapped a vote last week on a bill that would have prevented Tesla Motors Inc. from selling directly to consumers.

Timothy Jones, speaker of the Missouri House of Representatives, told The Wall Street Journal that the legislation would be reintroduced next year with hearings in the state Senate and House.

Tesla wants to sell its vehicles directly to consumers, but its efforts to do so have met strong opposition from dealers, who contend that the company's direct-selling model violates franchise and consumer laws in many states. Tesla should have to comply with the same rules that other automakers follow, they say.

In Missouri, the bill mainly deals with all-terrain vehicles. But a provision that would ban direct sales from vehicle manufacturers -- deemed "anti-Tesla" by the company -- was added before the bill reached the Missouri Senate floor.

The state Senate passed the legislation on May 7 without public consultation.

"This change is not an innocent, minor amendment," the company said in a May 8 statement. " ... It is also a complete 180 from current law."

Tesla operates one Missouri store, in St. Louis, according to its Web site.

The Missouri action comes after a string of legal battles among Tesla, dealers and state lawmakers in Texas, New Jersey, Washington and other states.

According to the National Automobile Dealers Association, 48 states have some type of restriction on factory-owned dealerships.

You can reach Kathleen Burke at kgburke@umich.edu