Tesla will bring fight against dealerships to Utah this fall

Utah continues to hold out with its franchised dealership requirement.

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To paraphrase the title of the old Frank Capra movie, Mr. Musk is going to Salt Lake City. Tesla Motors chief Elon Musk continues to take his battle state-by-state to legally sell his company's electric vehicles directly to consumers without a third-party dealership. And this fall, that state will be Utah, says Utah Business.

Utah and Tesla started towards a sort of compromise when state Representative Kim Coleman (R) introduced HB384 for the 2016 session. That bill would've given the California-based automaker a license to sell its vehicles in the state, but it came with a bunch of restrictions. For instance, Tesla would've only been allowed to keep minimal inventory in the state and it would've had to deliver its new cars directly to customers, so consumers would've been denied that glorious experience of driving their new cars off the lots themselves.

That turned out to be too many hurdles for Tesla, which balked at the bill earlier this year, and HB384 was defeated. Lawmakers and dealership representatives continue to debate the matter. Coleman is still pushing for an allowance of direct Tesla sales, and calls the current prohibition "unconstitutional." Meanwhile, Craig Bickmore, executive director of the New Car Dealers of Utah Association, is still singing the praises of the century-old dealership-franchise system, saying that the division of labor (automakers make the cars, dealers sell them, never the twain shall mix) makes the system more efficient, while ensuring that franchised dealerships invest substantially in local communities. It's the classic "we sponsor Little League teams" argument.

Tesla, which continues to take a similar fight to states such as Michigan, begs to differ, of course. Stay tuned.

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