lon seidman / ctnewsjunkie photo
Tesla’s Milford Service Center (lon seidman / ctnewsjunkie photo)

HARTFORD, CT – The electric car dealer that’s not allowed to sell directly to consumers in Connecticut has withdrawn its appeal to the Supreme Court.

Tesla, which made a decision to sell its vehicles largely online last year, has withdrawn its challenge to a lower court ruling on the activity at its now-closed Greenwich gallery.

The Greenwich gallery at the center of the controversy – Tesla’s first and only in the state – closed in March 2019 around the time that the company decided to stop pursuing in-person sales in an effort to concentrate on selling online.

The underlying complaint alleging illegal sales at the Greenwich location was first brought to the state Department of Motor Vehicles by the Connecticut Automotive Retailers Association.

“We now have standing case law validating that what Tesla was doing in its Gallery stores constitutes selling and is a violation of Connecticut law, which requires a dealer license to sell automobiles,” Jim Fleming, president of CARA, said. “This ruling ensures essential consumer protection and fair-lending laws remain in place to protect Connecticut’s car-buying public.”

Tesla said it withdrew the appeal because it is now able to offer leases to Connecticut residents from its Milford service center.

Visitors to the Milford location are able to speak with an adviser about electric vehicle technology and test drive a vehicle if they are considering leasing a Tesla. They are still unable to purchase a vehicle in Connecticut because Connecticut state law prohibits the direct sale of vehicles to consumers by manufacturers. It currently requires sales through a franchise dealership license.

Lawmakers were upset last year when Tesla announced that it was abandoning its push to sell directly to consumers through brick-and-mortar retail locations.

Legislators in Connecticut who have been supportive of Tesla’s agenda for years were not happy last year when they were given no advance notice of Tesla’s decision to abandon its push for direct sales through stores.

“We had a long, drawn-out public hearing in late February and 72 hours later we find out that their business model has completely changed,” Rep. Roland Lemar, D-New Haven, said last year.

“(Transportation) Committee members were frustrated,” said Lemar, who is co-chair of the committee. Lemar said the bill won’t be raised again, “unless we hear from someone at Tesla that something changes down the road.”

In the meantime, electric vehicle owners were excited about the news that Tesla would be leasing its vehicles.

“State officials have set an ambitious goal of having 500,000 electric vehicles on the road by 2030. To meet this goal, electric vehicles must become more accessible to consumers,” Electric Vehicle Owner’s Club President Bruce Becker said. “Tesla’s decision to move forward with leasing is a huge step toward achieving this goal. Year after year, Tesla sells more electric vehicles by far than any other carmaker.”

But Becker also wants to make it easier for consumers to purchase a Tesla.

“It’s time for Connecticut to make it easier for consumers to purchase, not just lease, clean-driving cars, including by opening our doors to electric vehicle manufacturers like Tesla who sell directly to consumers. It’s legal to sell Teslas in New York and Massachusetts and so many other states. It’s time for the state legislature to follow Governor Lamont’s lead and support this great opportunity to achieve our goals.”