SAN FRANCISCO/DETROIT -- Tesla Motors Inc., which has long skirmished with auto dealers over its practice of selling cars directly to consumers, has accused General Motors of being the driving force behind a bill to kick Tesla out of Indiana.
Tesla is licensed to sell directly to consumers in Indiana, and has operated a store in Indianapolis for two years. Indiana State Rep. Kevin Mahan has introduced a bill that would "provide that a dealer license issued to a manufacturer expires after 30 months and may not be renewed." Tesla would have to find franchised dealers to sell in the state after 30 months.
The legislative battle comes as both companies prepare for a head-to-head competition to sell lower-priced electric cars that target the mass market next year.
GM’s lobbying helped create the proposal, which some have dubbed the “Kill Tesla” bill because the legislation is specific to manufacturers of all-electric vehicles.
“I want Tesla here,” Mahan said at a Jan. 27 hearing of the Indiana House Roads and Transport Committee. “But they need to have a dealership. This bill gives them 2 1/2 years to put a dealership system in place.”
Tesla has publicly accused GM of being behind the legislation and writing the bill for Mahan. GM offered “input” into the bill, but the author was in charge of the language in the draft, spokesman Chris Meagher said in an e-mail.
Mahan, a Republican, represents a largely rural district northeast of Indianapolis. Indiana has a part time legislature; Mahan owns an insurance agency.
"I want Tesla to put a dealership system in place," Mahan said in an interview. "This is about protecting my constituents. If someone wants to spend over $100,000 on a car, that’s one thing. But when you are talking about a car costing $30,000 or $40,000, consumers ought to be able to drive to their local dealer and have a face-to-face conversation."