Tesla continues to try to up-end the dealership system in the U.S., which generally requires that franchise-owned dealers sell cars, vs. automakers selling directly via their own wholly owned dealerships. The latest beat in he ongoing battle comes in Missouri, where Cole County Circuit Court Judge Daniel Green decided in favor of the Missouri Automobile Dealers Association (via Autoblog), effectively deciding that while Tesla can own and maintain showrooms in the state via its state dealership licence, it can’t sell cars directly to consumers at those locations.
According to the terms of the judgement, Tesla can still sell its vehicles to Missourians online, and use its physical locations directly. This is the norm for most states where it’s allowed to sell its vehicles, but it’s still barred from selling its vehicles direct to consumers at all in six states.
The company continues to try to turn the state laws in its favor, but it faces strong resistance from powerful dealership lobbies across the country. Ultimately, Tesla wants to operate its own dealerships which can sell direct to customers, as well as selling online, and its argument for doing so is that generally speaking, franchisees don’t have sufficient expertise around EVs to sell them alongside other vehicles, and it also would clearly like to own more of the overall customer experience.
In Missouri, Tesla had attempted to argue that it could issue a franchise agreement to itself, an arrangement which would satisfy the local legal requirements. Judge Green says that the law requires the franchisee be a wholly separate entity, however.
Back in May, the Wall Street Journal reported that Tesla is still trying to convince lawmakers to change their minds about direct sales at the local level, but that it’s also considering mounting a federal case to challenge hold-outs based on a 2013 federal appeals court precedent involving the sale of coffins, wherein a coffin maker bypassed funeral directors in order to sell direct to consumers.