It’s been a no good, very bad month for Tesla where West Virginia is concerned. A few days ago, West Virginia’s governor signed a bill into law effectively blocking Tesla from selling cars directly in the so-called Mountain State.
It’s a tough one for Tesla because it’s one of the electric carmaker’s largest markets. West Virginia itself isn’t terribly important, but where it’s located is. It’s strategically near the Washington D.C. area, as well as potential customers in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Maryland and Kentucky.
West Virginia is one of at least five states including Michigan that’s banned direct automaker sales except when through a franchised dealer. The company meanwhile operates “galleries” in Texas, Arizona and Maryland because sales are not allowed there.
West Virginia Governor Ray Tomblin had initially resisted his home state’s bill. “One of my goals is to attract businesses or bring jobs into the state,” he told The Washington Times. “I have a lot of friends who are car dealers, and maybe they would like to protect their turf, but at the same time, it’s just another business.”
It should also be noted that West Virginia’s Senate President Bill Cole owns several auto dealerships, but abstained from voting during legislative proceedings.
Prior to the vote, Tesla supporters took to the automaker’s forum on its website to rally around the electric carmaker, to no avail. Tesla responded to Friday’s development with disappointment in an emailed statement to media.
“Despite a campaign based on pro-business and free market principles, the Senate president’s bill prevents competition and protects the car dealer monopoly,” Tesla executive Jim Chen said in the statement. “West Virginians deserve the right to choose how and from whom they purchase their vehicles. We will return next year to fight for consumer choice and free market access.”
On the other hand, just last month New Jersey passed legislation to end its year-long ban of Tesla’s direct-sales so things are looking up for Tesla there.
A huge victory in New Jersey for consumer choice: We are open for business! @GovChristie
— Tesla Motors (@TeslaMotors) March 18, 2015
Tesla also just released its quarterly numbers. The automaker says it delivered 10,030 vehicles in the first quarter, 500 above its initial forecast and 55% higher than deliveries this time last year.
Meanwhile, Tesla has more than cars on its minds these days. It’s announced it will reveal the Tesla Model W on April 30th. Yes, the “W” stands for watch.