Musk dangles track, car plant in wooing Texas lawmakers

Tesla Motors Inc. CEO Elon Musk urged Texas lawmakers on Thursday to ease restrictions on sales of the company's electric luxury cars as he floated the prospect of locating a new car factory or a test facility for his "hyperloop" mass transit concept in the state.

Texas is one of several states that have barred, or strictly limited, Tesla's ability to sell cars directly to consumers through company-owned stores.

Owners of franchised car dealerships in several states have lobbied to block Tesla's direct sales operations on grounds that they violate laws designed to protect auto retail franchises from competition from auto manufacturers.

Musk has fought to overturn the restrictions, and told an audience at a transportation seminar in Austin that the current franchise laws are "un-Texan."

"All I want to do is give the people in Texas the right to choose how they buy their cars," he said.

Musk said Texas could be a contender for future Tesla car or battery factories, and said he is considering building a test facility for his concept of a "hyperloop" rapid transit system in the Lone Star state. Musk's SpaceX space transport company already has a rocket development facility in the state.

A Tesla spokesman said Musk's comments about the factory and the hyperloop test track were part of a "wide-ranging discussion in Austin, Texas about Texas matters," and not an attempt to link those potential investments to a resolution of the dealership matter. Musk did plan to speak with lawmakers about the franchise issue, the spokesman said.

Musk's concept of a hyperloop would be an alternative to air travel or high speed trains for travel between cities several hundreds of miles apart.

The idea, sketched out in an August 2013 paper, is that people would be whisked from city to city in pods that traveled through steel tubes, propelled by differences in air pressure. The pods would ride on a cushion of air, Musk wrote, and use electric compressors mounted in the nose to push air from the front to back, propelling the pod forward.

On his Twitter account Thursday, Musk posted: "Will be building a Hyperloop test track for companies and student teams to test out their pods. Most likely in Texas."

Tesla shares have been sliding in recent days, and dipped again on Thursday, losing 0.4 percent to close at $191.87. The share's 52-week range is $162.40 to $291.42. Reuters

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