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.