Tesla could open up to 12 Texas stores if legislation passes
Tesla may be able to open up to 12 stores in Texas, if a group of state legislators gets its way.
State Reps. Eddie Rodriguez, Charles Anderson, Jodie Laubenberg, Tan Parker and Rod Simmons and Sen. Kelly Hancock on Thursday filed bills that would allow Tesla to sell directly to customers.
Under current state law, customers can purchase new vehicles only through a franchised dealership. The bills would allow customers to purchase vehicles directly from the manufacturer.
Tesla has waged battles against dealers in several states as it seeks to expand its retail footprint around the country.
The Texas bills, House Bill 1653/Senate Bill 639, proposed that a manufacturer or distributor may be considered a dealer if the manufacturer or distributor does not own or operate more than 12 dealers or dealership locations in Texas and if the manufacturer’s product has never been sold in this state through an independent franchised new-vehicle dealership.
Dealers oppose the bills, said Bill Wolters, president of the Texas Automobile Dealers Association.
“They think it’s a very bad idea. It is a bad idea for our state,” he said.
Texas has 1,257 franchised new-vehicle dealerships, and many dealers are contacting members of the Texas House and Senate to voice their concerns, Wolters said.
“When you buy a product from a retail outlet owned by a California corporation, 100 percent of proceeds from the sale go to California. Nothing goes to Texas. There’s no real benefit for our state,” Wolters said.
Dealers have a greater push to take care of local customers, Wolters said.
Dealers are “a part of the community. They focus on customers, employees and their town because they want to be there for generations,” he said.
Manufacturers, such as Tesla, won’t have competition if the bills pass. There will be no reason to negotiate prices without that competition, and their focus will be to make as much money as possible to satisfy the stockholder, rather than the customer, Wolters said.
The group of legislators disagrees.
Sen. Kelly Hancock, who represents the bill, said in a statement: "Free market principles are the foundation of our strong Texas economy. [The bill] helps sustain a competitive marketplace and gives consumers more choices."
Laubenberg added: "Let's not be a protectionist state and kill innovation in the automotive industry, but instead allow the free market to decide the fate of new ideas.”
The bill applies only to manufacturers that have not previously been a part of the dealer or franchise system.
Many Texans support the bill, the statement said. A statewide survey of 1,201 adults taken last month by pollster Baselice & Associates found that 84 percent of Texans favor allowing consumers to purchase certain new cars directly from the manufacturer, the statement said.
Texas legislators filed similar bills in 2013 that would have exempted Tesla from the state’s franchised laws, but the bills didn’t move forward.
Tesla was not immediately available for comment.
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