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Is New Jersey Backing Down from Tesla?

It looks like New Jersey’s opposition to Tesla Motors, like Governor Chris Christie’s waistline, is slimming down. The Assembly’s Consumer Affairs Committee unanimously advanced a bill on June 5th that would allow the electric car company to sell vehicles directly to consumers again. This comes three months after the state Motor Vehicle Commission passed a bill requiring vehicle manufacturers to sell through a dealership, effectively banning Tesla’s operations in New Jersey; the company strictly sells its vehicles without the use of a dealership.

If passed, the new bill will allow electric car manufacturers to open up to four showrooms, with the requirement of having a maintenance facility in the state. Tesla had previously sold cars in New Jersey at two locations for two years, but then the Motor Vehicle Commission decided to enforce franchised dealer regulations. This caused a huge rift between Tesla CEO Elon Musk and NJ Governor Chris Christie as Musk thought the governor was working on a deal to let the legislature decide on the law. So, he opted to halt operations in the state.

Similar to letting the Nets go to Brooklyn, and allowing an MTV film crew in Seaside Heights, New Jersey realized it probably made a mistake. Advocates argued electric vehicles have many environmental, health, and economic benefits, which could help mitigate some of New Jersey’s air pollution. Supporters also noted a ban of this nature could stifle the growth of clean energy. Director of Greenfaith Paul Kaufman said, “Failure to pass this bill will inhibit the technology.”

It’s not clear when the bill will be considered by a full assembly, or how likely it is to pass. If it does get approved, New Jersey will be the first of the three states with a ban to overturn it; Texas and Arizona both currently prohibit sales of vehicles without a dealership. Like the New Jersey Turnpike, it may take a while to get through all the traffic and cause a few headaches before finally reaching a destination.

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