Legislation that would block Tesla Motors from using the Internet to sell its electric cars in North Carolina is on the back burner for now. But a legislative maneuver has cleared the way for a vote on other dealer-franchise matters.
No movement appeared imminent on dealer-backed legislation that included the Tesla-related provisions as well as other changes to dealer franchise law. So legislators on Tuesday moved to split the bill into two pieces.
Several elements of the original bill, deemed noncontroversial by the North Carolina Automobile Dealers Association, were attached to an unrelated bill that is moving forward. That amended bill was passed out of a House committee on Tuesday and is slated for a vote on the House floor on Thursday.
Those elements of the original bill have nothing to do with Tesla. They address subjects such as warranty reimbursement, loaner vehicles and training. The dealers association already had negotiated those changes with manufacturers, said Robert Glaser, president of the state dealers association.
Running out of time
But with the short timetable left -- North Carolina's legislative session is expected to end in early July -- dealers were worried their bill would be squeezed out at the last minute and fail to come to a vote, Glaser said.
The split doesn't mean the end of the challenge for Tesla.
"The Tesla bill is still alive and well," Glaser said. "We have to work with the leadership of the House to get the bill heard in the House."
The original bill, with the provisions affecting Tesla, remains in the House Transportation Committee. It passed the North Carolina Senate unanimously in May. The committee could still consider the original bill this session, but it's unlikely, Glaser said.
The bill would then carry over into next year's session, which opens in May.
The delay looks like a win, even if a temporary one, for Tesla.
Tesla spokeswoman Shanna Hendriks said, "We're working under the assumption that it's not dead."
She added, "Anything is possible in this catfight, but we're optimistic."
Tesla had been actively lobbying North Carolina legislators and giving Model S demonstrations around the state capitol. North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory and House Speaker Thom Tillis recently went for test drives in the car.
Dealers now have the next 10 months to work on legislators to get the bill heard next year, Glaser said. In the meantime, he said, leaders of the dealers association hope to meet with Tesla to work out a compromise if possible.