Tesla Triumphs In Maryland As New Bill Allows Sales At Four Sites: Which State Is Next?

April 17, 2015

Another one bites the dust -- and more will surely follow.

Auto News reports that the Maryland legislature has passed a bill that would allow Tesla to open up to four retail locations in the state. Governor Larry Hogan hasn't indicated whether he'll sign the bill, but at least one delegate with knowledge of the situation says that Hogan is likely to approve.

How was Tesla able to prevail against yet-another statewide dealers association? Let us count the ways:

1. Good lobbyists: Tesla and its advocates came to the bargaining table with just the right mix of chutzpah and humility. They were able to work with dealers and legislators to craft a bill that was acceptable to all parties. (Though in fairness, Tesla probably would've encountered more resistance if dealers hadn't had their backs against the wall.)

2. Limited outlets: The final bill limits Tesla to four retail outlets in the state, and four is a decidedly non-threatening number. (Perhaps not coincidentally, that's the same number of outlets that Tesla was granted in legislation passed a few weeks ago in New Jersey.)

3. Limited scope of products: Another key part of the agreement is that the only automakers who can sell directly to Maryland consumers are those with lineups that include only electric or non-fossil-fuel burning vehicles. That keeps major automakers like General Motors and Toyota from hawking battery electric cars and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles directly to shoppers.

4. Blue state demographics: Tesla is the automotive poster boy of eco-friendly progressives, many of whom make Maryland their home. Turning away Tesla as other nearby states make room for the company's all-electric rides would be a publicity nightmare -- especially for legislators looking for their next election fix.

All of this is well and good for Maryland, but the real question is: is this a trend?

You better believe it. Tesla now has a legislative formula that's allowed the company to get its foot in the door in several states. Not only is Tesla likely to use the same approach with other legislatures, but it's also likely to open the door wider with time.

Governor Hogan is expected to take action on the bill on April 28 or May 12. For more perspective, check out our colleagues at Green Car Reports.


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