Tesla Motors this week slammed New Jersey officials for moving forward on rules that it says will ban direct sales of Tesla's electric vehicles in the state.
Tesla will be forced to "shut down sales operations" effective 1 April, a Tesla spokesman said, and the move "also affects future expansion."
"The Administration has decided to go outside the legislative process by expediting a rule proposal that would completely change the law in New Jersey," Tesla wrote in a Tuesday blog post. "This new rule, if adopted, would curtail Tesla's sales operations and jeopardise our existing retail licenses in the state."
The New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission (NJMVC) held a Tuesday afternoon meeting, where it approved Proposal PRN 2013-138, which was first proposed in October. According to Tesla, the rule "seeks to impose stringent licensing rules that would, among other things, require all new motor vehicles to be sold through middlemen and block Tesla's direct sales model."
A spokesman for Governor Christie sees things differently. "Since Tesla first began operating in New Jersey one year ago, it was made clear that the company would need to engage the Legislature on a bill to establish their new direct-sales operations under New Jersey law," he said in a statement. "This administration does not find it appropriate to unilaterally change the way cars are sold in New Jersey without legislation and Tesla has been aware of this position since the beginning."
According to Tesla, the car maker had secured a deal with Christie's office whereby the issue would be addressed by the New Jersey legislature rather than the commission. Instead, "the Administration has expedited the implementation of a new law that the Commission intends to stealthily approve," Tesla said yesterday, pointing to the less than 24-hour notice the company reportedly received about the hearing.
At the hearing, Tesla supporters criticised the commission, with one man accusing members of acting "purely in the interests of big business and the dealerships," Bloomberg reported.
Tesla has two stores in New Jersey: the Short Hills Mall, and Garden State Plaza in Paramus, as well as a service centre in Springfield. According to Tesla, uncertainty over regulations in New Jersey "have handicapped Tesla in New Jersey, where, without clear licensing procedures and fair enforcement of existing law, we have been forced to delay our growth plans."
As noted by Bloomberg, Tesla met with auto officials in Ohio this week in an effort to reach an agreement on a bill that would require Tesla to work with franchise dealers if it wants to expand in the state. But Tesla has faced similar obstacles in states like New York, Texas, North Carolina, and Virginia, among others.