After New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie agreed to a deal that would have forced Tesla Motors to stop selling vehicles at its three locations there, the state legislature may be coming to the electric vehicle maker’s rescue.
Assemblyman Tim Eustace (D-Bergen/Passaic) introduced a bill that permits consumers to buy electric vehicles directly from the manufacturer. If passed, it would supersede the recent ban by the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission (MVC), which is composed of Christie’s cabinet members and appointees, on allowing EVs to be sold outside of a franchised retail dealer network.
After blasting Christie for supporting the ban, Tesla founder Elon Musk said the company’s three locations would become “galleries” where employees could answer questions about the car, but would not be allowed to discuss pricing. Anyone interested in buying a Model S would have to go to Pennsylvania or New York to complete a purchase. New Jersey joined Texas and Arizona as the only states to ban Tesla from selling vehicles directly to consumers.
Eustace said the move by the MVC didn’t make economic sense.
“Because of this new rule, an interested buyer looking for more fuel-efficient, environmentally-friendly vehicle options can go look and ask questions about an electric car in New Jersey, but will have to go to Pennsylvania or New York if he or she actually wants to buy the car,” he said in a statement. “How does sending business to other states help New Jersey’s economy?”
Eustace, who owns an electric vehicle, has sponsored a number of bills favorable to the electric car industry in New Jersey. Prior to the MVC action, Musk had been in discussions with the Christie administration about the issue and felt the parties were close to an agreement; however, that changed suddenly causing Musk to take to social media criticizing Christie in a March 14 blog post directed to “The People of New Jersey.”
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He made a not-so-veiled reference to Christie’s recent political problems where several former high-ranking officials, who are facing potential criminal charges, allegedly ordered lanes approaching the George Washington Bridge closed, creating a traffic nightmare in the community of Ft. Lee, whose mayor didn’t support Christie’s re-election.
Musk claimed Christie’s administration again played dirty politics after seeming to negotiate a possible solution to the dispute over company-owned dealerships.
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“Governor Christie had promised that this would be put to a vote of the elected state legislature, which is the appropriate way to change the law,” Musk blogged.
It was a process the franchised dealer lobby actively opposed, said Musk, and “When it became apparent to the auto dealer lobby that this approach would not succeed, they cut a backroom deal with the Governor to circumvent the legislative process and pass a regulation that is fundamentally contrary to the intent of the law.”