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Tesla Makes Big Push For Direct Sales

by | May 17, 2017 12:00pm
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Posted to: Energy, Environment, Jobs, Transportation, DMV

Courtesy of Tesla

Diarmuid O’Connell, vice president of business development for Tesla Motors

HARTFORD, CT - For the second consecutive year a poll paid for by Tesla shows there is broad support for the American car manufacturer to sell their electric vehicles directly to consumers in Connecticut.

The survey of 500 likely 2018 voters showed that 74 percent strongly support direct to consumer sales, with 11 percent opposing. The poll was conducted by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research.

The numbers are nearly identical to a poll done last year on the same issue - changing state law to allow Tesla Motors to sell their products directly to consumers.

Tesla is back pressing the Connecticut legislature to allow it to obtain a new dealer license and sell directly to Connecticut consumers, bypassing the motor vehicle franchise system that other car manufacturers like Ford, GM, and Toyota have been required to use in order to sell their products.

The bill passed the Transportation Committee by a 25-10 vote and the Finance, Revenue, and Bonding Committee by a 25-20 vote, but it hasn’t made it to the House for a vote yet.

“There is overwhelming support for direct sales in the polling data,” Al Quinlan, partner at Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research said in a conference call Monday. He said the data is subject to margin of error of 4.4 percent.

Quinlan said “the breadth of support for this legislation is impressive. It earns strong majorities across every demographic subgroup, particularly among voters 18-39 years old (89 percent - 4 percent) and college graduates (77 percent - 8 percent).”

The poll also shows that support cuts across party lines, as 71 percent of Democrats either strongly or somewhat support direct sales, 74 percent of Republicans, and 77 percent of Independents.

Quinlan said the poll also found that 49 percent of voters would be less likely to support a legislator who opposed direct to consumer car sales legislation.

Diarmuid O’Connell, vice president of business development for Tesla Motors, said the poll is another reason that “Connecticut should embrace innovation - or - the legislature can fail to act.”

Tesla is allowed to sell direct to consumers in hundreds of states and countries. They are prohibited from selling directly in Connecticut, Michigan, Texas, and West Virginia, according to O’Connell.

There are about 1,300 Teslas registered in Connecticut, which represents 62 percent of the electric vehicles in the state, according to the Palo Alto, California-based company.

During Transportation Committee public hearing testimony on the legislation, car dealers and manufacturers opposed the legislation.

“This legislation would unfairly create two different sets of rules within state law for competitors in the same marketplace,” Wayne Weikel, senior director state affairs for the Auto Alliance Driving Innovation, said.

The Connecticut Auto Retailers Association argues that Tesla could sell in Connecticut today if it agreed to compete under the franchise dealer system.

“In Connecticut, as in every other state, automakers and dealers operate under a complex scheme of state franchise laws that regulate nearly every facet of our relationship. Some of these laws are onerous for manufacturers. Yet, in a marketplace where competition between brands is fierce, all participants must at least operate under the same set of rules,” Weikel added.

State Sen. Michael McLachlan, R-Danbury, added: “I have no objections to Tesla sales in Connecticut, but I do not support carving out special exceptions that allows specifically for one company, which is what this legislation does. Our state has 250 auto dealers and 14,000 employees that follow our franchise laws.”

Quinlan said legislators should heed one question that the the poll asked concerning the state’s economy, which was: “Generally speaking, do you think that things in Connecticut are going in the right direction, or do you feel things have gotten pretty seriously off on the wrong track?”

The answer was that 72 percent thought that the state was headed in the wrong direction meaning “there is a deep pessimism in Connecticut - about as pessimistic as I’ve seen it in 30 years of doing this (polling),” Quinlan said.

To that point, Tesla’s O’Connell added: “We sell direct because we are selling new technology. We are looking to invest millions of dollars in Connecticut, employ hundreds.

“Jobs are created, not lost when Tesla comes to the market,” O’Connell said.

O’Connell said while Tesla has dealt with the “rhetoric” of the car dealership lobby in a number of other states, it has been particularly testy in Connecticut, stating that there have been false claims about bad service made, and even websites created that trash Tesla.

He termed the negative campaign unfortunate because “the state of Connecticut would be a great market for us, we believe.”

“Currently those who want a Tesla have to travel to New York or Massachusetts,” O’Connell said.

Another reason the state of Connecticut should jump on the Tesla bandwagon is it makes environmental sense, Mark Scully, chairman of People for Action for Clean Energy, said.

“We are under an order in the state to reduce greenhouse gases by 80 percent by 2050,” Scully said. “There is a general sense we aren’t going to hit that goal. Electric cars would help us get there.”

The Acadia Center released a report Wednesday that shows there has been no negative impact on car dealership employment levels in states that allow the direct sales of electric vehicles.

“This research puts to rest the main argument against EV direct sales in Connecticut,” Emily Lewis O’Brien, policy analyst at Acadia Center, said. “We hope the debate can now move forward and EV manufacturers can bring more of these clean vehicles to the state.”

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