Connecticut auto dealers to protest Tesla bill

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Tesla’s Model S

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — Connecticut auto dealers are making it clear to state lawmakers they oppose legislation that would allow an electric car maker to sell vehicles directly to consumers.

Owners and managers of dealerships planned a rally at the state Capitol on Wednesday to protest a bill benefiting  Tesla Motors.

Current state law prevents car manufacturers from selling their cars to consumers. A bill before the legislature’s Transportation Committee would make an exception for Tesla.

The Connecticut Automotive Retailers Association, which organized the rally, contends Tesla should use Connecticut’s existing system of mostly family-owned dealership to sell its cars. The group argues existing franchise laws provide protections to consumers, and say that manufacturers selling directly to consumers is anti-consumer and anti-jobs.

They say Tesla is welcome to bring cars to the state; in fact, they’d love to sell them. But, they don’t want their franchise laws changed, and that includes any exceptions for Tesla.

Rep. Tony Guerrera, the Transportation Committee’s co-chairman, said the bill will be subject to negotiations. He has suggested a limited number of Tesla stores.

Republican Sen. Art Linares supports the bill, but he wants to make sure auto dealers are protected. “I understand the auto dealers concerns, and so what we’re doing is we’re trying to work with the auto dealers to say we are going to limit this to just Tesla, and by limiting it to just Tesla we’re encouraging innovation ,” said Linares.

However, auto dealers like Jeff Aiosa, a Mercedes-Benz dealer in New London, believes the bill could create a crack in the franchise laws.

“We have concerns relative to a boutique manufacturer like Tesla or any other manufacturer coming in and making exception to those franchise laws, specifically creating a loophole where other manufacturers, perhaps out of this country can come in and do the direct sale model,” said Aiosa.

Tesla said during a legislative hearing that selling their cars directly to consumers is an important part of the business because education is needed for the innovative designs.

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