Missouri Could Block Tesla Sales In Legislative 'Sneak Attack'

Missouri's state legislature has just one week left to go in its current session, and it looks like lawmakers will spend that time trying to stop Tesla Motors from selling their cars direct to customers — an attempt Tesla says came out of the blue.

Tesla officials announced on the company's blog that a car dealer-backed initiative has put new language into an existing bill. If passed, the bill would force Missouri's car buyers to purchase new cars only through franchised dealers, which would effectively halt Tesla from selling cars there.

The bill, HB 1124, was originally unrelated to car sales. It dealt with laws regarding all-terrain vehicles, recreational off-highway vehicles, and utility vehicles.

The worst part, according to Tesla, is that the bill passed the Senate last night with the new anti-direct sales language "after zero public consultation." They say it could soon move to the House with effectively no debate or public input. From the blog:

This debate should be held in the full light of day with all sides being given an opportunity to make their case. Instead, the dealers are again trying to ram through a provision under the cover of darkness and without public debate. The people of Missouri deserve better from their elected officials.

The current Missouri law only prohibits franchisors (a car company) from competing with their franchisees (that car company's dealers). Tesla says they comply with that law because they do not compete with any established franchise.

But the bill could make it so a "franchisor" includes any new car manufacturer, which would be a threat to direct sales.

Tesla has a storefront in St. Louis and plans to open one in Kansas City later this year. Until now their sales have never been challenged in the courts or in the legislature.

Riddle me this dealers: If your model exists to protect the public from car manufacturers, as you say it is, then why not inform the public about what's being done? Why push for laws in secret right before the end of the session?