Tesla fighting back against Oklahoma bills that could force gallery closures

Tesla’s innovative sales approach, sidestepping traditional dealership networks to interact directly with consumers, has long ruffled feathers across various states. However, Oklahoma’s latest legislative efforts threaten to push the envelope even further. Senate Bill (SB) 2022 and House Bill (HB) 3104 loom over Tesla’s operations, proposing changes that could compel the automaker to shutter its gallery locations in Tulsa and Oklahoma City.

Tesla’s presence in Oklahoma is currently limited to gallery locations due to existing legislative frameworks. These spaces are designed more for education and information about Tesla’s offerings rather than direct sales, which are somewhat curtailed by state law. The proposed bills aim to tighten these restrictions, potentially banning even these informational activities.

At the heart of SB 2022 and HB 3104 is a contentious redefinition of what constitutes a salesperson. The legislation seeks to classify repair technicians as salespersons, a move that could transform repair shops into de facto dealerships. This reclassification would subject these locations to a slew of regulatory requirements, including the necessity of obtaining an auto dealer license—a credential Tesla does not possess under its business model.

Should these bills pass, the ramifications for Tesla could be severe. The requirement for an auto dealer license, coupled with the broadened definition of a salesperson, might force Tesla to close its galleries in Oklahoma, a significant blow to the company’s direct-to-consumer sales model.

The authors behind SB 2022 and HB 3104, State Rep. Mike Dobrinski and Sen. Roger Thompson, have defended the legislation, asserting that the bills are designed to protect dealers from manufacturers, not to target Tesla specifically. “This was in no way intended to be about Tesla,” Dobrinski remarked, highlighting the bills’ broader intentions.

Tesla, however, perceives these bills as a direct threat to its innovative sales model. In response, the company has mobilized its customer base, encouraging Oklahoma Tesla owners to voice their opposition to the state’s lawmakers. Tesla’s proactive stance underscores its commitment to maintaining its unique approach to car sales, emphasizing the potential job losses and negative impacts on its operations in Oklahoma.

The situation in Oklahoma is not an isolated incident but part of a broader national debate on the future of car sales. Tesla’s direct sales model challenges the traditional dealership structure, raising questions about consumer choice, innovation, and the automotive industry’s evolution.

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