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    Tuesday, November 29, 2022

    Tesla would rather fight than deal

    Come on, Tesla, can’t you just play by the rules we have here in Connecticut?

    Tesla was a leader in the emergence of the electric vehicle. It also is an innovator in how it wants to sell its cars — directly to consumers, bypassing the dealership model. To that end it has lobbied in the last couple of legislative sessions for the repeal of regulations in Connecticut that mandate the dealership approach. So far it has been unsuccessful.

    This seems to come under: If it ain’t broke don’t fix it.

    The legacy dealership model has encouraged competitive pricing. Dealers can act as advocates for customers when it comes to enforcing car-manufacturer warranties. Local service centers are convenient and provide local jobs, the money circulating back through the community.

    Tesla lobbyists have argued that the 20th century dealership model blocks EV innovation. But the fact is that electric vehicles produced by Chevrolet, Volkswagen, Ford, Nissan, Toyota and other manufacturers are being sold through dealerships. And Tesla is free to line up a dealership.

    In any event, those are the rules until and unless the legislature changes the law.

    In East Hartford, the Hoffman Auto Group has turned to Hartford Superior Court with the contention that Tesla is trying to illegally drive around the dealership rule. The planning and zoning commission there approved Tesla’s plans for a “service facility” at former car dealership. The Hoffman Auto Group lawyers contend in the lawsuit that the Tesla application “obscures the applicant’s actual intent” to sell new and used cars.

    Indeed, the town initially approved a plan that included a Tesla showroom, but withdrew it when presented with the state dealership regulation. The revised permit, minus the showroom, contains the caveat that it can be modified or revoked if the business operates in a manner not aligned with the application.

    It is becoming clear that Tesla won’t retreat from its direct-sale model and Connecticut car dealers are equally committed to working to try to prevent that change. The two sides are once again on a collision course in the next legislation session. In the meantime, it is up to the courts to assure everyone is abiding by the law as it now exists.

    The Day editorial board meets regularly with political, business and community leaders and convenes weekly to formulate editorial viewpoints. It is composed of President and Publisher Tim Dwyer, Managing Editor Izaskun E. Larrañeta, staff writer Erica Moser and retired deputy managing editor Lisa McGinley. However, only the publisher and editorial page editor are responsible for developing the editorial opinions. The board operates independently from the Day newsroom.

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