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As Tesla Debate Continues, Concessions Emerge

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Tesla Motors is looking to change the law to allow for direct sales of its product in Connecticut.
"We're not trying to circumvent regulations. We're asking to be part of the regulatory system."<br><em>James Chen</em>

A group representing automotive dealers in Connecticut said it will continue to oppose Tesla selling its cars directly to customers, but if the legislature does decide to move forward with a bill allowing direct sales, car dealers are calling for a two year moratorium on it.

It's a fight that started when state senator Art Linares wanted to buy a Tesla in Connecticut. He discovered decades-old dealership laws prevented that and introduced a bill to allow Tesla to sell its product directly to consumers.

Lobbyists from traditional car dealerships took to the capital opposing the measure, saying if Tesla went out of business, that could leave consumers holding the bag -- unable to find viable options for repair work on their Tesla cars.

James Fleming is President of the Connecticut Automotive Retailers Association. "We think the legislature, at the very least, if they're going to change 40 years worth of law, they ought to wait and see what's happening in other states and watch how Tesla does over the next couple of years," he said. 

Fleming said direct-sale legislation could also pave the way for foreign manufacturers who aren't Tesla to circumvent dealerships and sell directly to Connecticut customers. Tesla said that doesn't have to be the case.

In the meantime, the market is moving forward. In the next two years, companies like Chevy have announced plans to introduce their own line of affordable battery-powered cars and under current law, dealerships could sell those.

"I think what the Connecticut Automotive Retailers Association is doing is trying to prefect a monopoly on how consumers are able to buy products," said James Chen, Vice President of Regulatory Affairs at Tesla.

"We're not trying to circumvent regulations. We're asking to be part of the regulatory system. So, allow us to apply for a license. Allow us to be regulated by the appropriate authorities in Connecticut," he said. "We would comply with and follow all the rules and regulations that would apply to any other dealer."

To that end, Tesla said it's willing to cap Tesla sales locations in Connecticut to five and that it's open to other adjustments as the legislative battle with traditional automotive dealerships continues

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