Tesla Motors, unburdened by past opposition from the powerful car dealers lobby, easily won House approval Friday night for a bill letting it continue to avoid independent dealers and sell an unlimited number of its new electric vehicles directly to Georgia consumers.
The measure, which passed 170-3, now goes before the State Senate.
If the legislation wins passage there and sign-off from the governor, California-based Tesla would be the first and only car maker in recent Georgia history to be allowed to sell freely without going through independent dealers. But the company would be capped at five Georgia locations.
Tesla’s unusual dealer-free business model has sparked legislative fights around the nation, pitting the company against franchise car dealers protected by state laws giving them exclusive rights to sell new cars. Tesla only sells its highly rated electric vehicles online or through its own stores, three of which are in metro Atlanta.
The Georgia Automobile Dealers Association fought similar legislation last year that would have let Tesla sell more cars locally. The GADA also has sued to force the state to halt Tesla sales, which it contends violate state law.
But convinced the fight could linger for years, GADA leaders agreed to support the Tesla bill, House Bill 393, in return for changes eliminating a potential loophole in existing law that might have let other car makers also sell direct to consumers.