Automakers will be benefitting from a Tesla-like direct sales business model in Wyoming under proposed Senate Bill 57, which would allow car manufacturers to sell vehicles directly to consumers within the state.
The proposed bill in Wyoming would require Tesla and other direct sale manufacturers to obtain a state license to sell directly to customers. The Wyoming legislation also states that manufacturers would be allowed to open stores that they wholly own. “Right now, a manufacturer cannot legally sell cars to Wyoming consumers in Wyoming,” said Sen. Cale Case, R-Lander, the lead sponsor of the bill. “I am not sure what Tesla would do with the law, but it seems like a business-friendly thing to do to make it legal for them to sell cars to people in Wyoming.”
Tesla, one of the largest global electric car manufacturers, has a business model in which it sells cars directly to customers. It skips a step in the traditional car selling process, bypassing third-party dealerships and selling its cars to consumers through stores operated by the carmaker. Because of this alternative approach, Tesla has had to fight for the right to sell its vehicles in many states.
The bill permits manufacturer sales even if it does not have a physical presence in the state. Senate File 57 adds the following “Motor vehicle franchises — exception:”
A “direct sale manufacturer” means a person licensed under W.S. 31-16-104(a)(ix) who is engaged in the business of manufacturing, constructing or assembling new and unused vehicles and who sells new and unused vehicles to the general public.
Until the bill passes, such a direct sales business model continues to be illegal in Wyoming and several other states, including Utah, North Carolina, Connecticut, and Michigan, amongst others.
Traditional dealerships are not owned by manufacturers according to a near century-old law that was intended to prohibit big manufacturers such as Ford and General Motors from selling directly to consumers, over fears they would undercut dealers on pricing, drive them out of business and lessen competition.
Tesla has some infrastructure already in place in Wyoming. Supercharger stations are located at the Frontier Mall in Cheyenne and in Lusk, Gillette, Sheridan, and Jackson, Wyoming. Because current Wyoming law prohibits Tesla from offering direct sales to customers, the nearest places for consumers within the state to purchase Tesla vehicles are Lone Tree, Vail, and Aspen, Colorado.
The Wyoming Automobile Dealers Association (WADA) is now reviewing the proposed legislation, with concerns about fairness. Marsha Allen, WADA’s executive vice president, has indicated she is researching whether the bill will harm existing Wyoming businesses. She dismissed the need for Wyoming residents to be able to purchase Tesla vehicles in state “since people are already purchasing these vehicles,” adding that Wyoming law already allows car owners to register and title the cars with the Department of Transportation.