Proposal Would Allow for Sale of Tesla Cars in Connecticut

Connecticut lawmakers will consider passing a law allowing for the sale of Tesla Motors cars in the state during the current session of the General Assembly.

Tesla historically has not sold cars like other automotive manufacturers through traditional dealerships. Instead, the car manufacturer maintains owned-and-operated retailers in 22 states, selling directly to customers. Twenty-six states have outright bans on direct car sales.

"It's a new way of doing business," explained state Sen. Art Linares, of Westbrook, who is proposing the measure and recently purchased a Tesla himself.

"If somebody wants to buy a Tesla, they’re going to buy a Tesla, and right now that’s what’s happening, but they’re going to New York to do it,” Linares added.

New York and Massachusetts allow for the sales of Tesla automobiles.

Connecticut has 270 new car dealers, and the association is on the record against direct sales of the cars from Tesla.

Jim Fleming represents the dealers and their 15,000 employees through the Connecticut Automotive Retailers Association.

"They make a great product," Fleming said, of Tesla Motors. “We would love to see them sold in Connecticut through the franchise system under all of the same rules all of the other dealers have followed.”

Fleming cited serious issues associated with car shoppers buying directly from manufacturers, which has never been done before.

"I think it puts them at risk, which is why we have franchise laws in Connecticut, and I think it will be anti-competitive,” Fleming said.

Tesla cars are all electric and are powered by numerous lithium-ion batteries on their undercarriages.

Telsa models have zero emissions, and the company has installed charging stations all over the country, including along Interstates 95 and 84 in Connecticut.

There is a Tesla service center in Milford and a showroom in Niantic, but purchases cannot be made at either location. According to the company, 500 Tesla cars are driving around Connecticut.

"We don't use dealers," Tesla Vice President of Regulator Affairs Jim Chen said Wednesday. "We are not looking to upend the entire franchise system. What we're trying to do is provide consumers a choice and purchase of their Tesla vehicles."

Chen said any concerns from dealers or elsewhere are unfounded and compared Telsa to Apple as another example of direct consumer purchasing.

"We received a 99 out of 100 from Consumer Reports on customer satisfaction," he said. "That's not us; that's an independent publication."

Richard Jordan purchased his Tesla S in March 2014.

"I love the acceleration, not having to stop at a gas station ever again and just how smooth it rides,” he said.

Jordan called the company directly and a representative filled out an online order form.

“Dealing with Tesla has been easy as ordering anything," Jordan said. "If you order anything from Amazon, it’s that easy.”

He said for his next Tesla, he would love the opportunity to purchase one in the state where he actually lives.

"It would make things much easier," Jordan said.

Fleming said in a statement Thursday that "local Connecticut dealers are ready and willing to sell Tesla immediately."

"We currently offer many electric vehicles through our dealerships and we are strong supporters of growing that market," the statement continues. "We don't understand why [Tesla CEO] Elon Musk wants to introduce legislation that would circumvent the auto laws and rules that we all follow, particularly since this past week Musk said at the Automotive News World Congress he is open to working with franchise dealers."

Chen said the company has a lot at stake and direct sales are the company's business model, whether the sale takes place in California or Connecticut.

"If we don't get it right, as the newest car company, then we're history," he said.

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