Tesla Wins In Georgia, Loses In West Virginia

March 27, 2015

For Tesla fans below the Mason-Dixon line, we have good news and bad news, courtesy of Auto News.

Since it's Friday, we'll start with the good news: Georgia has passed a bill that (a) increases the number of outlets that Tesla can operate in the state and (b) allows the automaker to sell an unlimited number of vehicles.

That's a very different story than many might've expected, given the uproar that Tesla caused in the Peach State last September. At the time, the automaker had been cleared to operate three showrooms in Georgia, but to get around existing franchise laws, it had to limit sales to 150 vehicles per year.

Georgia auto dealers weren't happy about that, and they complained to regulators. The state's Department of Revenue subsequently found that Tesla was in violation of its license because it sold 173 vehicles between October 2013 and June 2014.

Tesla responded that it hadn't broken any rules because the 150 limit applied specifically to calendar years -- though in classic Tesla fashion, the company declined to elaborate on sales stats for 2013 and 2014.

Seven months down the road, Georgia's dealership network appears to have gotten the big picture -- namely, in the battle between Tesla and conventional dealerships, Tesla wins the hearts and minds of consumers again and again. Tesla's not going anywhere.

And so, the two sides hammered out a deal that allows Tesla to operate up to five outlets in the state and removes the 150-vehicles-per-year limit.

The bill was passed by the Georgia Assembly and awaits the signature of Governor Nathan Deal. Since it's a compromise brokered by both dealerships and Tesla, Deal is expected to sign it.

And the bad news? West Virginia has shut its borders to Tesla.

Tesla had an opportunity to make headway in West Virginia by amending a bill that clarified the roles and responsibilities of automakers and dealer franchises. However, the legislature ultimately rejected the Tesla-friendly amendment. In its final form, the bill prevents automakers from exhibiting cars to the public at all, unless they do so through a franchised dealership. 

Is that a big deal? You might not think so. After all, West Virginia doesn't really have the major metropolitan areas that Tesla has been drawn to in other states.

But West Virginians probably weren't Tesla's target demographic. West Virginia is strategically located between Kentucky, Maryland, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Virginia. A few showrooms in West Virginia's border towns could be a boon for Tesla's business. Or rather: could've been.

Given Tesla's track record in other states, it's probably only a matter of time before the automaker gains a foothold in West Virginia. For now, though, the state's automobile dealers and their "proven" sales model have won the day.

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