Tesla, New Jersey Spar Over Sales License Laws

The New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission (NJMVC) today voted unanimously in favor of a proposal that will tighten automotive sales licensing rules, which Tesla Motors claims will “curtail Tesla’s sales operations and jeopardize our existing retail licenses in the state.”

Now facing potential closures in its two New Jersey stores, the company reportedly found out about the hearing only yesterday. Tesla sounded off on its company website in protest of the legislation, which Tesla alleges New Jersey Governor Chris Christie promised to delay.

Both Tesla and its wealthy owner Elon Musk are well-known for bucking trends, and have proven that it’s not all smoke and mirrors with the outstanding Tesla Model S (our 2013 Automobile of the Year). Tesla’s non-traditional approach has irked many mainstream automakers, particularly concerning its direct-to-consumer sales model that circumvents the need for a dealer to serve as a middleman.

In an interview with Automotive News, Christie administration spokesman Kevin Roberts asserted that Tesla knew well in advance that it needed to consult with the state legislature to continue to sell cars legally under its direct model. “This administration does not find it appropriate to unilaterally change the way cars are sold in New Jersey without legislation,” said Roberts.

Tesla contends that as of January, it was given assurances from Christie’s staff it would be able to do just that; the state legislature would publicly hear out both Tesla and the New Jersey Coalition of Automotive Retailers (NJ CAR). NJ CAR represents the dealers, who Tesla considers part of “a special interest group looking to protect its monopoly at the expense of New Jersey consumers.”

“This is an affront to the very concept of a free market,” Tesla’s statement reads.

Christie’s staff and the NJMVC have apparently also given Tesla the runaround for several months as the electric car company has sought to both renew its current sales license and acquire a new license.

Tesla has faced very similar issues with state legislators and the dealer lobby in Georgia, Minnesota, New York, Ohio. Sales of Tesla vehicles are outright banned in Arizona, Colorado, Virginia, and Texas.

No doubt Tesla will continue to ruffle feathers as it seeks to revolutionize the way cars are built, sold, and owned. The brand is ostensibly unshaken by the resistance, and will continue with plans for the upcoming Model X electric SUV as well as the smaller Model E sedan.