Tesla Motors may have to close its factory-owned stores in New Jersey by April 1, 2014 after the state’s Motor Vehicle Commission adopted new regulations on dealership licensing. The approval of the new rules came despite Tesla’s objections that the changes would restrain its sales operations and jeopardize licenses for its two stores in New Jersey.
Tesla has accused Gov. Chris Christie’s administration of breaking its promise to delay the regulation, which favors auto dealers represented by the New Jersey Coalition of Automotive Retailers. According to Tesla, it had held talks with the governor’s departing and incoming chief counsels as recently as January, and “it was agreed that Tesla and NJ CAR would address their issues in a more public forum: the New Jersey Legislature.”
In response to the Tesla’s accusation, the governor’s office said it was made clear to Tesla since the carmaker first commence operations in New Jersey that it “would need to engage the Legislature on a bill to establish their new direct-sales operations under New Jersey law.” Kevin Roberts, a spokesman for Christie’s office, issued a statement saying that the 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.”
Diarmuid O’Connell, Tesla’s vice president of business development, however, disputed the statement. “The statute in New Jersey plainly allows Tesla to be licensed to sell cars there,” O’Connell said in an e-mailed statement to Automotive News.
“Indeed, the Motor Vehicle Commission has licensed Tesla under that statute ever since October 2012, and any suggestion that Tesla was told ‘since the beginning’ about any problem with its ability to be licensed there is false.” He remarked that the only thing that has changed is the administration’s sudden decision “to go around the Legislature in an attempt to enact a rule that the statute doesn’t permit.”