Senate Majority Leader Bob Duff may have pulled the plug last week on legislation that would allow Tesla to sell directly to consumers, but the company doubled down Monday in an effort to get the bill called.
If the bill is passed, Tesla officials said they will also open a regional distribution center that will bring 150 jobs to the state.
Specifically, Tesla said it will commit to building a New England Distribution Center in Connecticut, employing up to 150 personnel within the next 18 months if the state enacts a law that enables Tesla to own and operate five stores. Each of those stores will employ up to 25 people.
That means the California-based company could be bringing 275 jobs to the state with annual salaries ranging from $40,000 and $100,000.
According to Tesla, its sales personnel are full-time employees of the manufacturer, earning primarily salary with only a marginal commission supplement. Service personnel are highly trained and qualified and are paid on an hourly basis to ensure customer satisfaction in contrast to general industry practice of compensating personnel on a job basis. Distribution personnel are also be salaried.
The legislation Tesla has been advocating would have allowed it or other electric car manufacturers to sell directly to customers in Connecticut, rather than through a third-party dealership franchise as is required by state law. Legacy car manufacturers and the Connecticut Automotive Retailers Association have opposed the bill as a regulatory carve-out for a specific kind of car.
A similar bill passed the House last year, but never got called for a vote in the Senate.
On Monday, Duff said this information would have been useful more than a week ago when he was trying to reach a compromise with car manufacturers. On Saturday, he said he didn’t have enough votes in the Senate Democratic caucus to run the bill, even though he had hoped the final product would be negotiated by the car dealers and Tesla.
“I question the timing of their announcement,” Duff said, adding that Tesla didn’t raise the prospect of a distribution center until it was clear the legislation didn’t have enough support to get across the finish line.
“I question the seriousness of the proposal when it came so late in the process with three days to go,” Duff said.
Sen. Tim Larson, D-East Hartford, said the proposal to bring a distribution center to Connecticut does nothing to change his mind about the legislation.
“Why can’t they play by the rules?” Larson said.
He said he’d welcome Tesla to the state if they agree to comply with car dealership franchise laws created to protect consumers.
“Play by the rules and you get my blessing,” Larson said.
Rep. Antonio Guerrera, D-Rocky Hill, said Saturday that there’s support for the proposal in the House.
“The business community in Connecticut needs both a level playing field and predictability. Carving out an exemption for a single company in a big industry like ours undermines both of those concepts,” Daniel Gage, senior communications director for the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, said.
He said nothing is stopping Tesla from entering the Connecticut market.
“All they have to do is follow the laws that every other manufacturer is required to follow,” Gage said. “The State House should not play favorites and create two sets of rules.”
James Fleming, president of the Connecticut Automotive Retailers Association, said what Tesla is offering Connecticut is a classic “bait and switch.”
“Tesla ships direct to their customers from California and has no need for a hypothetical distribution center here,” Fleming said. “These types of promises made during the last moments of session are attempts to go around the process of making good public policy.”