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Tesla blocks GM's challenge to direct sales in Indiana

Bill sent to 'summer study'

Tesla is licensed to sell electric cars directly to consumers in Indiana and has operated a store in Indianapolis for two years. Photo credit: DAVID PHILLIPS

Tesla Motors Inc. prevailed Thursday in Indiana, where a bill that would have kicked the company out of the state unless it establishes dealerships was sent to "summer study," essentially tabling the legislation.

Tesla is licensed to sell its electric cars directly to consumers in Indiana and has operated one store in Indianapolis for two years.

Indiana state Representative Kevin Mahan introduced a bill, which General Motors lobbying helped to create, that would have required Tesla to establish franchised dealers.

After a hearing Thursday, a state Senate committee voted to send the bill to a summer study session.

"We look forward to participating in the upcoming summer study process where we will be able to fully air the issues of vehicle sales and consumer choice in an open and public forum," Tesla said Thursday in a statement.

The legislative battle comes as both carmakers prepare for head-to-head competition to sell lower-priced, long-range electric cars next year. GM is readying its Chevy Bolt, while Tesla is preparing to unveil the Model 3.

GM sees imbalance

In a statement, GM said it was pleased that the issue, "which demonstrates the inequity of different competitors having different rules in the marketplace," was debated.

"We will continue to work on this issue in Indiana and nationally, and will continue to express our concern anywhere we find market participants are operating under different rules," GM said in the statement.

Mahan said that he welcomes Tesla to Indiana, but thinks it should have two dealerships competing on price. He also wants the Palo Alto, Calif., company to get more involved in the local community.

"I look forward to Tesla supporting our local little leagues," said Mahan at Thursday's hearing.

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