RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — North Carolina lawmakers and passersby stopped to take in a display of Tesla Motors' award-winning electric cars Wednesday as the company presses against a bill in the General Assembly that effectively outlaws Tesla's Internet-based sales model.
The California automaker drew sporadic crowds around its Model S electric car outside the legislative building. The company is lobbying against a bill backed by the state's auto dealers that prevents electronic transactions with auto manufacturers.
The Senate already passed the bill, which mostly updates the relationship between manufacturers and dealers but has generated interest because of the outcry over Tesla. The auto dealers who pushed for it argued Tesla is operating with an unfair advantage and the existing laws are designed to protect consumers in terms of warranties, service and other aspects of the industry.
Tesla has asked consumers to tell their legislators that the only thing dealers are protecting is their monopoly on retail.
North Carolina isn't the first state to present a road block. The company operates 29 stores and galleries across 14 states and Washington, D.C., but it doesn't physically sell its cars at those locations. Instead, the company directs customers to the Internet.
Most states have laws protecting franchise dealers by requiring manufacturers to sell through them. In other states, though, auto dealers and legislators have mostly recently tried to halt the expansion of the stores, not to restrict online sales.
Colorado stopped their spread through a state law in 2010. Since then, Minnesota lawmakers unsuccessfully pushed for a similar measure. In New York and Massachusetts, dealers have unsuccessfully sued to shut down the dealer's stores.
The Model S is Motor Trend's 2013 car of the year and Consumer Reports' highest-rated car in the publication's history. The Model S comes with a base price tag of about $70,000 and can travel up to 300 miles on a single charge.
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