Tesla sells its new cars directly to Georgia consumers. That’s illegal under state law, with few exceptions, according to the Georgia Automobile Dealers Association, which says it represents more than 500 dealers who handle about 90 percent of new vehicle sales in the state.
Car makers in most states generally are supposed to sell new vehicles only through dealers who are independent franchisees. Georgia legislators put the restriction into law 15 years ago after heavy lobbying by dealers. Major car makers, e-commerce businesses and other industries unsuccessfully fought the move.
In the first big test of that restriction, GADA recently sued to force the state’s Department of Revenue to halt Tesla’s Georgia operations.
Tesla contends the law doesn’t apply to its business and, even if it did, the company would come under exemptions for custom-designed cars sold in relatively small numbers.
The challenge by dealers angers Bob Miller, who recently ordered his first Tesla online.
“It seems unconstitutional,” said Miller, a retired financial services executive who owns a north Georgia winery, Yonah Mountain Vineyards. “If you build a better mouse trap and it’s a better product, the government shouldn’t shut you down.”