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Tesla hopes revived Texas fight will open door to dealerless car sales

by Nicholas Sakelaris | U.S.News | 11-26-2018

Nov. 26 (UPI) -- Electric automaker Tesla said it's planning to renew a fight in the upcoming Texas legislative session so it can sell its vehicles directly to the public.

Changing the law in Texas is a high priority for the company, a Tesla spokesperson said.

The California carmaker has tried three times to find a workaround for strong franchise laws that require new vehicle sales to be done through dealerships. In 2013, 2015 and 2017, attempts failed to gain traction and were defeated by the strong Texas Automobile Dealers lobby. Past bills have run the gamut of narrow carve outs for Tesla to broader bills that could open the door for other carmakers.

Tesla is hoping the fourth time will be the charm when the Legislature convenes in January.

"Texas' outdated dealer-franchise law limits economic growth and prohibits innovative companies like Tesla from selling directly to Texans who want to buy them," a Tesla spokesperson told UPI. "We look forward to working with the Texas Legislature to promote consumer choice and create new jobs."

No specific bills have been filed yet, but Tesla has previously gotten lawmakers to champion the cause.

Tesla's cars shatter many conventions in the auto industry, not just because they're 100 percent electric, come packed with new technology and their own nationwide charging network. CEO Elon Musk decided early on that Teslas wouldn't be sold through third-party dealerships, which haven't always been receptive to alternative-fuel vehicles. Instead, he adopted the Apple approach, opening company-owned stores with Tesla employees. The radical departure has created legal problems for the automaker in many states, including Texas.

A spokesperson for the Texas Automobile Dealers Association said the laws Tesla's trying to circumvent protect buyers by ensuring fair competition.

"Texas dealers invest in their local communities through job creation, charitable donations of volunteer time and monetary donations," a TADA spokesperson said. "There is no reason to change a law that is good for Texas and Texans."

Tesla argues it's a free market issue.