Tesla asking for help in fast-moving Ohio dealership fight

If you're a Tesla Motors fan or a possible Model S buyer in the state of Ohio, you've probably received an email asking for help this week. Maybe two. The California-based automaker is taking up the fight against entrenched auto dealers in the state, just as it has in places like Texas and New York. In Ohio, though, the battle is happening at a breakneck pace.

Recently, Tesla sent a letter to supporters (you can read it below) asking for help in defeating an amendment to SB 137 that would, in Tesla's words, "change existing law to exclude Tesla from opening or operating any additional facilities in Ohio." The speed at which this fight is taking place can be seen in Tesla's original call for help at a hearing on the amendment tomorrow, December 4th. That hearing was quickly and quietly moved up to today (PDF). The amendment under discussion has not yet been posted to the Ohio legislature website, but Tesla says it reads as follows:

4517.12 Denial of license as motor vehicle dealer, motor vehicle leasing dealer, manufactured home broker, or motor vehicle auction owner.
(A) The registrar of motor vehicles shall deny the application of any person for a license as a motor vehicle dealer, motor vehicle leasing dealer, or motor vehicle auction owner and refuse to issue the license if the registrar finds that the applicant: ...
(11) Is a manufacturer or a subsidiary, parent, or affiliated entity of a manufacturer. applying for a license to sell or lease new or used vehicles at retail. Nothing in this division shall prohibit a manufacturer from disposing of vehicles at wholesale at the termination of a consumer lease through a motor vehicle auction. This division shall not serve as a basis for termination, revocation, or non-renewal of a license granted prior to the effective date of this provision.

So, basically, Tesla would be out-of-luck trying to open new stores and service centers in Ohio, despite the fact that the company says it has over 250 Tesla EV owners in the Buckeye State and that, "Ohio companies supplied well over $10 million in parts and components this year to build Model S vehicles in the United States." The automaker represents a threat to established dealerships, though. As Rhett Ricart, the co-owner of Ricart Automotive in Groveport, OH, put it hyperbolically to The Columbus Dispatch: "Tesla is Armageddon."

Diarmuid O'Connell, Tesla's vice president for business development, scoffed at this idea and said – like Tesla CEO Elon Musk before him – that Tesla owns it own stores because it is trying to introduce an entirely new powertrain to car shoppers. "It's because we're introducing a novel and innovative technology that requires a lot of customer education and support," he told the Dispatch.

Tesla is scheduled to open its first Ohio store on Friday. Earlier this year, Bill 137 passed with 32 votes in favor to zero against. This amendment might change things, but this appears to be an uphill fight for Tesla.
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Dear Tesla Advocates,

The Dealers in Ohio are working hard to pass legislation to prevent Tesla from selling vehicles in your state. As a Tesla advocate in Ohio we need your help now. This legislation, SB 137, would change existing law to exclude Tesla from opening or operating any additional facilities in Ohio. Make no mistake – this bill would prevent Tesla from opening stores and service locations in Ohio!

Tesla is putting boots on the ground to fight for consumer choice – and you too can play a part TODAY.

Please contact the Governor, the Speaker of the House, the Senate President, your local Senator and state Assemblyman, and let them know that you want Tesla to stay and grow in Ohio! Please join us and other Tesla Advocates at the Capitol for the House Transportation, Public Safety, and Homeland Security Committee hearing on December 4, 2013 to show your support for Tesla and against SB 137.

Did you know:

• There are more than 250 Tesla Roadster and Model S owners in Ohio with more joining our community every week.
• Ohio companies supplied well over $10 million in parts and components this year to build Model S vehicles in the United States, with that number expected to double by this time next year.
• With a service center in Dublin and stores opening in Columbus and Cincinnati this month, Tesla will support 26 employees, and every location will add an initial $7 million in direct economic activity to the State. Tesla will be banned from creating additional jobs, opening new locations and bringing substantial economic investment from a U.S. company to Ohio if this legislation passes.
• Tesla intends to install a number of Superchargers to enable long distance travel in the State before the end of the year to support the growing number of Tesla owners in the region.
Spread the word, and thank you for your immediate action!

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