A new round of state legislative battles between Tesla Motors Inc. and dealers looks like a draw so far.
In Arizona, a pro-Tesla bill that would free the electric vehicle maker from that state's ban on manufacturer-owned dealerships is going nowhere. But the face-off might not be over after last week's announcement that Arizona is a finalist for Tesla's $5 billion gigafactory.
In Georgia, a Tesla-backed bill might not meet a legislative deadline to move forward.
But in Washington, after dealers pushed a bill that would have explicitly blocked Tesla's business model, Tesla and dealers have compromised. If lawmakers adopt the amended bill, Tesla will be allowed to freely operate and even expand.
Dealers contend that Tesla'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. Dealers also fear Tesla's stores could open a path for other manufacturers to sell directly.
"We have strong feelings about keeping the two separate, manufacturers and dealers," said Bobbi Sparrow, president of the Arizona Automobile Dealers Association.
Tesla executives say their stores are operating legally and that the company isn't trying to overturn the franchised dealer system. They contend Tesla will fail unless allowed to operate its own retail network.
"We just want to be able to give life to this technology -- we're not on a holy mission here," said Diarmuid O'Connell, Tesla vice president of business development. "We'll fight them everywhere we have to, but we're not out to overturn the system."
In addition to Arizona, Georgia and Washington, Tesla-related legislation is active in other states, including Ohio, New York and Massachusetts.
In 2013, Tesla battled dealers in several states including Massachusetts, New York, Texas, North Carolina, Minnesota and Virginia. Results were mixed.
Tesla lost a prominent showdown with Texas dealers over Tesla-backed bills that would have carved out an exemption to that state's ban on factory-owned dealerships. But Tesla held at bay dealer-backed bills in Minnesota, North Carolina and New York. The company also won court decisions in dealer lawsuits in Massachusetts and New York. In Virginia, Tesla reached an agreement allowing the automaker to obtain a single dealership license.
According to the National Automobile Dealers Association, 48 states have restrictions on factory-owned dealerships. Of those, around 20 have statutes that make Tesla's model difficult to operate, Tesla has said.
Tesla CEO Elon Musk has said he will consider action on the national level, either through federal legislation or a federal lawsuit. That remains an option, O'Connell said.
"If we have to continue to have these battles on a one-off basis every year and the numbers start to get big, we're going to have to look at more efficient ways of dealing with this issue," O'Connell told Automotive News.
Tesla is getting a "very good hearing" from members of Congress in both chambers, particularly the House, he said. O'Connell added that he gets a lot of mail from congressional offices sympathetic to Tesla's position.
NADA has vowed to vigorously fight any federal action by Tesla.