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Tesla Lobbying Again For Direct-To-Consumer Sales In Connecticut

Rich Pedroncelli
A Tesla Motors Model S electric sedan.

Tesla is hoping its fourth try is the charm as it once again lobbies Connecticut lawmakers to pass legislation that would allow it to sell its electric vehicles directly to consumers in the state. A key legislative committee heard testimony on the matter on Monday.

Tesla sells its cars directly to consumers in 24 states, including neighboring Massachusetts and New York. Connecticut auto dealerships have had enough support in the state legislature to thwart Tesla’s efforts to change state law for three years in a row.

Tesla’s Jonathan Chang told members of the General Assembly’s Transportation Committee that this is costing cash-strapped Connecticut money. “In the last few months alone it’s represented over $1 million in tax revenue to the State of Connecticut. And in 2018 with our expected sales in Connecticut, we expect conservatively that it would amount to $5 million.”

State Senator Carlo Leone, a Democrat from Stamford, who co-chairs the Committee says that’s why lawmakers are looking to Tesla and the dealers to come up with a compromise. “We in the legislature are tasked between how to pivot into the new technologies into the new century without disrupting an older model.”

Wayne Weikel, of the industry group Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, told lawmakers it wouldn’t be easy to compromise. He gave the example of an agreement in New York for a limited number of Tesla outlets. “We had an agreement at five, and everyone was fine with, okay if you want to be different as long as it’s limited. But that compromise didn’t last very long. And now they are just back asking for more.”

Senator Toni Boucher, a Wilton Republican, said she’s supportive of the dealerships but they might soon have to face a different marketplace. “We just have to point to Amazon and see how that has disrupted the entire distribution of goods and services, the retail markets, the malls and the entire relationship between the seller and buyer.”

However, it’s not certain that this will be the year that Tesla gets its way in Connecticut. That’s because it’s an election year and most members of the legislature have at least one car dealership in their district.

As WSHU Public Radio’s award-winning senior political reporter, Ebong Udoma draws on his extensive tenure to delve deep into state politics during a major election year.