A proposal to restrain Tesla in New York

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A Tesla Roadster in New York. (AP Photo/Craig Ruttle)
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ALBANY—Tesla would no longer be able to sell its luxury electric vehicles directly to consumers under a new bill in the New York State Legislature.

Groups representing the state's automobile dealers met with Governor Andrew Cuomo in November to push a bill that would prevent automobile manufacturers from selling their vehicles directly to consumers, public schedules show. Deborah Dorman, president of the Eastern New York Coalition of Auto Dealers, was at that meeting and said Tuesday Cuomo aides told the group the governor would sign the bill if it passes.

She said the bill was designed to protect consumers because it required companies to create a storefront in the state and was not directed at Tesla because it sold electric vehicles. Some environmentalists have claimed the bill unfairly targets electric car manufacturers.

“Everyone is selling electric cars, it has nothing to do with that,” she said. “If you allow someone to come into the market with no overhead, that's an unfair advantage,” she said.

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The bill was first introduced late in the last session and would prevent Tesla from selling its vehicles directly to consumers out of mall kiosks, which it currently does in New York. But the Assembly set aside the bill without acting on it.

It is already illegal for manufacturers to sell directly to consumers in New York, Dorman said. She said Tesla created subsidiaries to skirt the law and sell its cars here. She said that gives the automaker an unfair advantage here over other car makers which are required to sell their vehicles in traditional dealerships.

Actor Mark Ruffalo, who is active in state environmental politics, tweeted out to his 660,000 Twitter followers that they should oppose the Senate and Assembly bills because they would restrict environmentally friendly electric vehicles. In a series of tweets, he said the bill unfairly singled out the green car industry.

“Imagine making Apple Computers unable to sell Apple Computers directly to their customers. That's what NYS is trying to do to ‪@TeslaMotors,” he wrote.

Tesla expects to sell 35,000 of its Model S vehicles in 2014, a 55 percent increase over the 22,477 it sold in 2013. The carmaker is expected to offer a cheaper sedan as well as a truck and start making 1,000 cars a week soon, up from 600.