Tesla’s war with the auto dealers is getting more interesting by the day. Barely a week after New Jersey outlawed the company’s contentious direct-to-consumers sales model, the Arizona legislature is considering a bill that would explicitly legalize it.
According to the Associated Press, Arizona House Bill 2123, which was approved by a state Senate committee this week, would permit direct sales by automakers that manufacture only electric vehicles and have a service center in the state.
Tesla currently has a showroom in Scottsdale but, as is the case in some other states, can’t actually sell cars there – customers must order online from the California factory.
Republican Senate Majority Leader John McComish calls the bill a “pre-emptive strike” against future laws that could ban Tesla’s operations completely. “In some states, they are moving to outlaw that kind of operation,” McComish said. “But I think we should be about opportunities for innovation rather than stifling innovation.”
“This is a great opportunity for us to send a message that we welcome business and we welcome Tesla here to Arizona,” said Rep. Warren Petersen (R-Gilbert), the bill’s sponsor. “We shouldn’t deny our consumers from being able to purchase a product if they want.”
In January, a similar measure, House Bill 2059, which would have legalized Tesla’s sales model, went nowhere. Could the state’s newfound zeal for electric innovation have anything to do with the fact that it’s on the short list of sites for Tesla’s planned Gigafactory, which is expected to create about 6,500 jobs? Oh no, of course not.
“I don’t want to send a message, even though this is not a quid pro quo,” said Sen. Bob Worsley (R-Mesa). “I want the message from our state to be that we welcome the opportunity to work with large successful companies with this size market cap.”
Naturally, dealers’ groups are opposed. “Tesla is asking for a special exemption for them to have a separate set of rules for their electric cars,” said Mike Gardner, a lobbyist for the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers. “What we’re opposed to is allowing one of our competitors to go around the dealer network and sell directly to consumers. We think we should all be treated the same.”
The bill will be reviewed by a second committee before going to the full Senate for a vote.