Dealers in Georgia petition to shut Tesla down

Auto dealers in Georgia are the latest seeking to shut down Tesla Motors' factory-owned stores.

The Georgia Automobile Dealers Association filed a petition of enforcement Friday with state regulators arguing that Tesla's direct-sales model violates state law. Tesla has one store in the Atlanta suburb of Marietta and is planning two more stores in metro Atlanta.

"It's just very simple — we want them to comply with the law the way others are," Bill Morie, president of the Georgia dealers association, told Automotive News.

Tesla did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Georgia joins a growing list of states where Tesla has tussled with dealers over whether the electric vehicle maker's factory-owned stores violate state laws on direct sales. In some states recently, including Pennsylvania and New York, compromises were reached, allowing Tesla to operate factory stores but with a cap on the number of locations allowed.

In its petition, the Georgia dealers association is asking state regulators to prohibit Tesla from selling its vehicles, revoke the company's existing dealer license and deny any attempt by Tesla to renew or reapply for a license.

The association suggests that Tesla improperly obtained the license by claiming that it qualified for a statutory exception allowing direct sales for makers of custom vehicles selling less than 150 a year.

Tesla does not qualify for the exception, the association argues, because it does not manufacture to custom design specifications and it is already selling more than 150 vehicles in Georgia a year.

"New-vehicle dealers just want a level playing field on which to complete," Morie said. "No one should be allowed to act as if they are above the law, especially when there is a simple path to compliance that everyone else has agreed to follow."

That path to compliance? Using a franchised dealer network like other manufacturers, an association spokesman said.

With generous tax breaks for EVs, Georgia is a market of growing importance for electric vehicle makers.

Based on percentage of retail registrations, Atlanta ranked as the No. 2 EV market among major metropolitan areas in the 12 months ending March 31, according to IHS Automotive.

Of all new vehicles registered in Atlanta, 2.15 percent were EVs, behind only San Francisco.

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