Tesla Motors has plans to bring a service center to Kansas City later this year, but the California-based maker of electric vehicles thinks the Missouri General Assembly is quietly pushing pro-auto dealer legislation that would keep the new competitor out of the market.
Tesla took to its website yesterday
with a post denouncing the Missouri Senate's passage of a bill that deals primarily with all-terrain vehicles, but just recently had an Easter egg tacked into the law that would require Missourian to purchase new cars from franchise dealers.
The change would tweak existing law that says automakers cannot compete against their franchisees. Tesla doesn't have franchise dealers in Missouri; it prefers to sell its vehicles through company-owned stores. Tesla says the new bill would keep the company from selling directly to consumers through dealers or shops that it owns.
"They are attempting to do so in part by redefining the word 'franchisor' to mean 'manufacturer,' a pirouette of which the legislators may not even be aware," Tesla's statement reads. "To be clear: this is worse than a mere case of dealers trying to protect an existing monopoly - this is a case of dealers trying to create a monopoly."
Tesla has run into barriers of entry of this type in other states, such as New Jersey where it operates a showroom where people can see the cars but can't actually buy one. Tesla has a service center in St. Louis and planned to bring one to Kansas City.
Senate Bill 1124, sponsored by Odessa Republican Glen Kolkmeyer, passed by a 28-3 margin on Wednesday and now heads to the House.
Tesla suspects that the auto dealer lobby had a role in crafting S.B. 1124 language.
"We have just become aware of a last-minute attempt by the auto dealers lobby, via pressure on legislators, to bar Tesla from selling its vehicles direct to consumers in the state," Tesla says. "This extraordinary maneuver amounts to a sneak attack to thwart due process and hurt consumer freedom in Missouri."