Late last week, West Virginia Governor Earl Ray Tomblin approved legislation making Tesla Motors’ direct-to-consumer sales approach illegal in the state. That makes WV just the latest in a long list of states where the electric carmaker can’t peddle its products without first establishing a dealership franchise.
As Automotive News reports, West Virginia is among the smallest US auto markets; losing that state’s residents as potential customers is a comparatively small blow. Rather, the cost of losing the legal battle comes in when one considers that West Virginia borders Ohio, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, and Kentucky. Tesla Motors has a limited, nonexistent, or legally banned store presence in each of these markets.
Tesla Motors had visited West Virginia to lobby on its own behalf before the legislation had passed. The automaker proposed an amendment which would allow itself (and others) up to five manufacturer-owned stores in the state, similar to the sort of compromise Tesla has managed to broker in other states, but that amendment was struck down.
Tesla Motors Associate General Counsel Jim Chen expressed the manufacturer’s disappointment in the new law in WV, saying that “West Virginians deserve the right to choose how and from whom they purchase their vehicles.
“We will return next year to fight for consumer choice and free market access in the 2016 legislate session.”