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Conn. Unlikely to Allow Tesla to Sell Directly to Consumers

The "Tesla bill" would allow electric-vehicle manufacturers to sell to Connecticut consumers without having a dealership with a maintenance and service center. The bill faces too much opposition to pass this year.

(TNS) — The so-called "Tesla bill" that would allow the electric-vehicle manufacturer and similar startups to sell directly to consumers in Connecticut has run out of time and is unlikely to become law this year, the sponsor of the legislation said Monday.

State Sen. Will Haskell, D-Westport, led the campaign for direct sales of electric vehicles this year as co-chair of the Transportation Committee, but predicted the bill's demise with less than three days left before lawmakers adjourn the session Wednesday night.

The legislation had drawn some bipartisan support, Haskell noted, but faced headwinds from car dealerships and unions representing auto maintenance workers that helped peel off Democratic support.

"At every turn, we had Republican supporters saying, 'What do we have to do to get this over the finish line?'" Haskell said in an interview Monday. "I know we'll get it done sometime, I just don't think we'll get it done this year."

After passing out of committee in March, the legislation never made it to a vote on the Senate floor, though Haskell said Monday he believed he had enough votes to have it pass out of the chamber. Even if was passed by the upper chamber, the bill would still have to make it through the House, which has well over 100 other bills remaining on its calendar.

The measure could still find a way forward through the massive budget implementer bill pulled together near the end of every session, though Haskell said it was unlikely that leadership would seek to stir up that debate.

A spokesperson for Tesla did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Monday.

Connecticut, like most states, requires that automakers sell their new vehicles through third-party franchise dealerships that also service and repair the vehicles. Newer manufacturers like Tesla and Rivian, however, have eschewed that model in favor of company-owned stores and showrooms.

Haskell's legislation would have exempted electric vehicle manufacturers without an existing franchise partnership in Connecticut from the law, while other automakers like Ford and Toyota would have had to continue under the existing model.

That prompted critics of the bill to accuse supporters of offering special treatment to companies like Tesla, which by some measures is the most valuable car company in the world.

"If we're looking to make a major change in how we sell cars ... it's important that it's not just a carve-out for some people but a real thoughtful plan for how we move forward with a new model," said state Sen. Julie Kushner, D-Danbury, one of the bill's opponents.

Unions also weighed in, arguing the bill could jeopardize some of the roughly 14,000 people employed by car dealerships in Connecticut. With the Connecticut Automotive Retailers Association, union leaders and lawmakers held a news conference last week, saying the direct-sales model would interfere with competition and hurt consumers.

Supporters of the bill, meanwhile, leveled their own accusations against traditional car dealerships, which they said offered inflated prices and costly financing options to minority customers.

Lobbyists for Tesla, Rivian and Lucid Motors all weighed in to support the bill, as did several environmental groups that argued it would lead to an increase in sales of electric vehicles.

New York, New Jersey and Massachusetts offer limited direct sales of electric vehicles along with more than a dozen other states, according to Axios.

Haskell, who is not running for reelection this year, said he remained optimistic that lawmakers will be able to pass similar legislation allowing for direct-sales in a future legislative session.

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