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Tesla wants to negotiate with auto dealers

BY Matt Pilon

4/13/2018
Matt Pilon
Matt Pilon
A recently installed Tesla charger in downtown Hartford.
Representatives from Tesla are pushing car dealerships to come to the negotiating table on legislation that would allow the electric car maker to sell directly to Connecticut consumers.

Tesla sent a letter on April 10 to Connecticut Automotive Retailers Association President James Fleming asking for a meeting to discuss, and perhaps reconcile, their opposing positions on House Bill 5310, which recently passed out of the Transportation Committee.

The bill would permit Tesla to bypass the state's auto dealer franchising laws and set up stores in Connecticut to sell directly to consumers here.

Dealerships have opposed similar bills for four years in a row, arguing that Tesla should sell its cars through dealer franchisees.

"Our team is ready to work with CARA and members of the General Assembly to advance this conversation in a meaningful way," states the letter, signed by Will Nicholas, Tesla's senior manager of business development, and Carine Dumit, Tesla's business development senior policy advisor.

While the Transportation Committee voted 25-11 to move the legislation forward, multiple members urged the two sides to work out a compromise, lest the full legislature pass a bill that one or both sides don't like.

"...I would encourage those conversations to take place because I'll be quite honest, if they don't, then it will be up to us to make those decisions," Transportation Committee co-chair Tony Guerrera (D-Rocky Hill) said during a March 22 committee meeting.

CARA's Fleming did not respond to a request for comment for this story.

Fleming previously told HBJ that he hoped the legislature would not take any action on a Tesla bill, at least until an ongoing legal spat over Tesla's Greenwich gallery could be worked out.

The Department of Motor Vehicles issued a cease-and-desist order nearly a year ago against the facility, ruling that its activities have all the attributes of a car dealership and that Tesla was violating the state's law forbidding manufacturers from selling cars.

Tesla argues that its Greenwich gallery was merely educating consumers about Tesla vehicles and telling them how they could lawfully purchase the vehicles in other states.

Tesla is appealing the ruling and the case remains open.