Tesla Motors Inc., the electric-car company that doesn’t have franchised retail dealers, may be forced to close stores in New Jersey after a state commission voted to bar automakers from selling directly to customers.
The New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission unanimously approved the proposal today in Trenton, delaying public comment on the matter until the hearing concluded. Tesla earlier today said it learned only yesterday that the rule change was coming to the most densely populated U.S. state, which is important for reaching customers in the New York metro area.
“There’s no question that this rule was aimed directly at Tesla,” Jonathan Chang, a lawyer for the automaker, said at the state Capitol after the decision. “New Jersey does not believe in free enterprise, the bedrock of this nation.”
The vote puts at risk the Palo Alto, California-based automaker’s two stores in the Garden State, and comes as Tesla fights to sell its luxury electric cars directly to consumers. Car-sellers in Ohio, New York, Minnesota, Georgia and elsewhere in the past year have sought to block Tesla from directly retailing its models. Texas dealers successfully backed a law setting the nation’s toughest restrictions on Tesla, and Arizona, Colorado and Virginia also imposed limits.