Tesla recently won a legal battle in New Jersey when Gov. Chris Christie signed a bill that enables the car maker to sell its vehicles directly to the customer, bypassing the traditional franchise dealer network.
Now Tesla has a similar opportunity in Maryland. The both houses of the state legislature passed a bill that’s now waiting for Gov. Larry Hogan’s signature to become law.
According to Hannah Lutz of Automotive News, Hogan could make a decision by the end of April or in early May.
In a statement, Tesla’s VP of Government Affairs, Jim Chen, said:
Tesla applauds the Maryland legislature for passing HB 235. This legislation confirms the Company’s ability to bring its direct to consumer sales model to Maryland residents, which brings it in line with virtually every other state.
We would like to specifically thank Delegate Kirill Reznik for authoring and sponsoring the bill, as well as the Maryland Automobile Dealers Association for working with us to support this legislation. This type of legislation can and should serve as an example to other states still blocking free markets, consumer choice, and American innovation.
We now look forward to Governor Hogan signing this bill into law shortly and demonstrating that Maryland is indeed open to new business and high tech innovation.
Maryland narrowly focused the bill on Tesla, restricting the exception to car makers that sell “only electric or nonfossil-fuel burning vehicles,” Lutz reported.
Of course, Tesla is really the only independent automaker currently selling that type of vehicle in significant volumes. However, those volumes aren’t that significant. This year, Tesla expects to sell 55,000 cars worldwide. In the US alone, nearly 17 million cars and trucks were sold in 2014.
So by creating the Tesla exception, Maryland wasn’t really threatening the dealer-franchise model. It’s not like floodgates can now open and the major automakers can do away with the dealers. Rather, it seems that the Maryland Automobile Dealers Association was thinking strategically in throwing its support behind a bill that would apply to Tesla alone.
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