Tesla Motors Inc (TSLA) hires lobbyists to fight Missouri auto dealers

Posted May 10, 2014

Tesla Motors Inc (NASDAQ:TSLA) is dealing with issues revolving around auto dealers in Missouri. Some language was quietly added to legislation that would prohibit Tesla Motors from selling directly to consumers in Missouri. This is why Tesla hired lobbyists to help them fight auto dealers in Missouri. Tesla Motors hired 10 lobbyists on Friday to fight House Bill 1124 during the final week of the legislature. 

According to PoliticMo, Tesla’s new team includes former House Speaker Steve Tilley; Danny Pfeifer, Greg Porter, and Alex Eaton of the Catalyst Group; Scott Penman and David Winton of Penman & Winton Consulting Group; Brent Hemphill and Kristian Starner of Hemphill and Associates; Heath Clarkston, and Michael Grote.

The Missouri Automotive Dealers Association also ramped up their own lobbyist team. The Association hired John Bardgett to join their team, which includes Phillip Schnieders, Doug Smith, Andy Blunt and Jay Reischard of Schreimann, Rackers, Francka & Blunt; and Bill Gamble, Jorgen Schlemeier, Sarah Topp, and Jeffery Brooks of Gamble & Schlemeier.

Automobile companies sell cars through dealerships, but Tesla opts to sell directly to consumers. Tesla was given permission to open up kiosks to sell their vehicles in Missouri by the Department of Revenue. Tesla has one facility in St. Louis and is planning to open a second shop in Kansas City later this year.

?It is clear under Missouri law that traditional manufacturers who already have franchised dealerships in the state may not sell cars directly to consumers. It is not clear that the statutes apply to a seller like Tesla, which apparently has not entered into franchise relationships with independent dealers,? stated Missouri Department of Revenue director John Mollenkamp in a letter to the Springfield News-Leader on April 23rd. The letter was written to Sen. Mike Kehoe, a Republican who previously owned an auto dealership in Jefferson City.

Members of the St. Louis Tesla Enthusiasts group said on Monday that they are planning to travel to Jefferson City to urge legislators to oppose the bill. There is passage of this bill that would result in the closing of the St. Louis Service center, which would cost 15 people their job and would require St. Louis Tesla vehicle owners to travel to Chicago for servicing. ?Missourians would still be able to purchase the car online but they would no longer be able to get test drives in the state,? stated St. Louis Tesla Enthusiasts co-organizer Liz Gattra.