The auto dealers lobby in Missouri is pressuring legislators to pass a last-minute bill that will bar Tesla from selling directly to customers in the Show-Me State.
In the last week prior to the end of Missouri’s current legislative session, dealers attempted to add new language to an existing bill that would force Missouri residents to only be able to purchase vehicles from franchised dealers.
The bill, HB1124, was introduced in December 2013 and passed in the House April 17 without the new anti-Tesla language. But this week, the Senate passed the bill with the new language without any public discussion. It has not moved back to the House for a final vote.
Tesla notes that the change in wording is not innocuous or minor and states it has nothing to do with the original bill, which was about laws regarding all-terrain vehicles, recreational off-highway vehicles, and utility vehicles. It’s also a direct 180 from current law which only bans franchisors from competing against their franchisees (for example, Chevrolet can’t compete against other Chevy dealers).
Tesla feels that the bill amendment “expands the scope of the existing law well beyond its original intent. 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. 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,” according to their blog.
Tesla, who operates a Service+ center in St. Louis that employs 15 people, feels debate on the amendment should “be held in the full light of day with all sides being given an opportunity to make their case.”
The green automaker has plans to open a larger service center in Kansas City, MO, which would employ an additional 15 bill. Passage of HB1124 would thwart their efforts.