N.J. Assembly OKs bill to allow Tesla direct sales

Separately, New York governor signs bill allowing Tesla to keep 5 stores

UPDATED: 6/17/14 12:41 pm ET - adds New York bill signed

TRENTON, N.J. -- The New Jersey Assembly approved a bill to allow consumers to buy electric cars directly from a manufacturer. The bill now heads to the state Senate.

The move on Monday follows the March 11 vote of the eight-member state Motor Vehicle Commission, which consists of members of Republican Gov. Chris Christie’s cabinet and other gubernatorial appointees, to block Tesla Motors from direct sales.

“Tesla is an innovative company that has produced a top-rated, environmentally conscious product,” Assembly Majority Leader Louis Greenwald said in a statement. “Their commitment to innovation, job-creation and customer satisfaction is precisely the kind of entrepreneurial spirit we should be encouraging in New Jersey. Unfortunately, the Motor Vehicle Commission’s decision threatened to hamstring those efforts.”

Tesla is battling car dealers state by state that want sales to go through them. Christie believes Tesla needs the legislature to lift the state’s direct-sales prohibition, a spokesman, Kevin Roberts, said after the commission’s vote.

The Christie administration “does not find it appropriate to unilaterally change the way cars are sold in New Jersey without legislation and Tesla has been aware of this position since the beginning,” the statement said.

The legislation would allow any zero-emission vehicle manufacturer to directly sell to a consumer if it was licensed by the Motor Vehicle Commission on or before Jan. 1, 2014. It needs approval from the Senate before it reaches Christie’s desk. Democrats control both chambers.

New York bill signed

Separately, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Monday signed previously approved legislation that would allow Tesla to continue selling at its five company-owned stores in that state. But the bill requires that any transfer of those locations must be to an independent franchised dealer, and bans any other manufacturer from having factory-owned stores except in very limited circumstances.

The New York bill also includes a provision that limits to no more than once every ten years an automaker’s ability to demand substantial facility renovations by its dealers. 

“New York’s franchised auto dealers and manufacturers as well as innovative companies like Tesla are critical to our state’s economy, and this bill ensures that both sides will thrive to be able to grow the market for cutting edge zero emission vehicles,” Cuomo said in a statement.

Auto dealers in the state applauded the signing of the legislation. Lou Roberti, chairman of the New York State Automobile Dealers’ Association, said in a statement that the provision on manufacturer-required renovations was especially critical.

“The bill’s provisions ensure clarity and reasonableness in the relationship between motor vehicle manufacturers and franchised dealers,” Roberti said in the statement.

Automotive News and Bloomberg contributed to this report.



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