Massachusetts dealers appeal ruling in Tesla store case
Massachusetts auto dealers are not taking “no” for an answer when it comes to Tesla Motors. On Tuesday, the Massachusetts State Automobile Dealers Association and other dealer plaintiffs filed an appeal after a court dismissed their lawsuit against Tesla’s factory-owned stores on December 31, 2012.
The lawsuit was initially filed by MSADA in October, and by year’s end, Norfolk County Superior Court Judge Kenneth Fishman ruled that the plaintiffs lacked standing to sue. This suit followed a similar lawsuit filed in October where the MSADA requested the court block an opening of a store by Tesla in a suburban Boston mall. Tesla won approval to open the store in Natick, MA, which fueled the second lawsuit.
Dealers are pointing to a 2002 Massachusetts statue that gives dealers and their association the right to sue to prevent manufacturer-owned stores, Robert O’Koniewski, executive vice president of the dealers association, told Automotive News in an email. “Tesla is spending considerable sums of money across the country in an effort to exploit what they see to be gaps in states’ franchise laws,” O’Koniewski wrote. “The law is the law. Follow it.”
Tesla didn’t respond to a request for comment. Tesla previously has said that it’s being very careful about complying with state laws. The stores are there to educate the public, and when it comes time to selling the car, it’s all being done online.
“People will be walking down the mall and they’ll see a car and they’re drawn in by that…,” said George Blankenship, Tesla’s vice president of sales and ownership experience, in an interview with SmartPlanet. “We’re educating, not selling. It’s two different things.” So far, so good for Tesla Motors. But the jury – as it were – could still be out.
By Jon LeSage