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Missouri judge rules against Tesla’s direct-to-consumer sales model

Model S 70D at the Tesla Store in Dedham, MA [Source: @Teslaliving]

A judge ruled on Wednesday that Tesla Motors will not be able to sell its vehicles directly to Missouri customers outside of having an independent franchise dealer. The ruling set forth by Cole County Judge Daniel Green also stated that Tesla was given a franchise dealer license in 2014 by the Missouri Revenue Department to operate its Kansas City storefront. Judge Green ruled that these actions violated laws stating that “a single entity may not manufacture vehicles for sale in Missouri and possess a Missouri new motor vehicle dealer license.”

The Missouri Automobile Dealers Association sued the state department in 2015 in order to block Tesla from selling its vehicles in the state. The association argued that “manufacturers do not sell cars themselves, but do so through a network of licensed dealers. This structure of separate roles for manufacturers and dealers is established by statute and reflects wise public policy.”

Tesla’s Vice President of Corporate and Business Development Diarmuid O’Connell fired back at the time stating that the suit had nothing to do with Tesla and was an attempt to limit consumer choice in Missouri. “Missouri law is very straightforward in that it prohibits manufacturers that use independent franchisees from competing directly against them, this has nothing to do with Tesla, which has never used independent franchisees.”

Because Tesla has already been granted a license from the past to sell within the state, the new ruling does not seek to revoke these, rather, it seeks action from the revenue department to discontinue the renewal of existing licenses and prevent new licenses to be issued to Tesla.

Tesla spokesman Will Nicholas said the company disagrees with the ruling and will appeal it. “Tesla will take all appropriate steps in the courts to ensure that Missouri consumers continue to have the right to choose how they purchase their vehicles,” says Nicholas.

Missouri would join Arizona, Michigan, Texas, Connecticut, Utah and West Virginia as states that prevent Tesla from selling its vehicles to consumers within state borders.

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