Elon Musk has two weeks to convince Texas legislators that he deserves an exemption to current state law that would allow him to sell his Tesla electric vehicles directly to consumers.
It will be a long shot.
Though a state House committee passed an amended version of a Tesla-backed bill in late April, the legislation has yet to be put on the calendar for debate by the full House. A companion bill lingers in a state Senate committee. Given the legislature's procedural rules, the bills are effectively dead. The session ends May 27, and legislators aren't scheduled to meet again until 2015.
Though a Tesla amendment still could be attached to a bill that is moving, the odds are against the company winning an exemption at this point.
"As Elon said, we might get our ass kicked," said Diarmuid O'Connell, Tesla's vice president of business development. "But we made a lot more progress than anybody ever thought we would."
Karen Phillips, general counsel of the Texas Automobile Dealers Association, which opposes the legislation, said the association considers the Tesla bills dead. But dealers aren't declaring victory yet.
"You can't exhale until the last day of the session," Phillips said.
In the meantime, Tesla is fighting legislation in North Carolina that it says would prohibit it from selling vehicles through the Internet to customers in that state.
A North Carolina Senate committee passed the dealer-backed bill last Thursday. The bill would require any entity that sells more than five vehicles online per year to have a dealer license, said Robert Glaser, president of the North Carolina Automobile Dealers Association.
Glaser said the legislation is targeted more toward Craigslist fly-by-night operators than toward Tesla. North Carolina franchise law already prohibits manufacturer-owned stores, he said. "We've got no problem with Tesla," Glaser said. "Be a dealer, join the association, and we'll help. Let's sell cars. Just play by the same rules that everybody else plays by."
Despite the bill, Tesla still sees a legal path to obtain a dealer license in North Carolina, O'Connell said. The company opened a service center in Raleigh, N.C., in January. It aims to open a retail store in the state in 2014.
If the bill passes, "They're removing the right that North Carolinians currently enjoy to shop and buy a Tesla online," O'Connell said.
The bill now goes to the Senate floor. The North Carolina Legislature has no fixed adjournment date, but its session typically ends in mid-summer.