In April of last year, Tesla was banned from directly selling its cars to New Jersey consumers. Governor Chris Christie said that the company was operating outside the state's law which mandates cars be sold through a state-authorized dealer. Now, the New Jersey Senate has passed a bill today that would allow Tesla Motors to resume direct sales to consumers in the state. The bill has already passed the state's General Assembly, so Christie now has 45 days to sign or veto.
Christie tried to shift the blame for the ban on the state's legislature. "I'm not pushing Tesla out; the state Legislature did," Christie said at a town hall meeting last year. "What they were asking for was an exception from the law. I'm not the king." But the ban was actually enacted by the state's Motor Vehicle Commission, a move which led Tesla CEO Elon Musk to declare that New Jersey auto dealers had subverted the democratic process.
New Jersey auto dealers subverting democratic process to try to block Tesla sales http://t.co/PLY97W1oh0— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) March 11, 2014
New Jersey is not the only frontline in this battle that Tesla is waging. The company has been banned from direct sales in states like Virginia, Arizona, and Texas, though legislators in the latter two are attempting to change that. And Michigan, once home to 29 percent of all the nation's auto jobs, banned Tesla from direct sales last October.
The bill in New Jersey to allow Tesla's direct sales does come with some limits. Tesla can only open a total of four of its own dealerships and has to operate at least one service center. (Tesla already had two dealerships before last year's ban, but hasn't been able to offer test drives or discuss sales since it was enacted.)
Should Christie approve it, the bill would go into effect immediately. If he decides to veto, Tesla will still be locked out of the state. Tesla CEO Elon Musk has widely criticized the treatment of his company by Christie and other New Jersey lawmakers, at one point likening their actions to that of the mafia.