W.Va. no longer ‘Open for Business’

Tomblin signs legislation preventing Tesla motors from selling its vehicles in the state

West Virginia cannot seem to understand what its own best interests are.

At least not the legislators.

Governor Earl Ray Tomblin recently signed legislation that would prevent Tesla motors from selling its vehicles in the state.

Weird move coming from the state whose entire livelihood exists around producing electricity.

The legislation specifically bans automobile manufacturers from selling directly to customers, acting in place of a dealership.

Supporters of the bill say it’s to protect dealerships and enforce the existing model of the automobile industry.

However, this wasn’t really much of an issue until Tesla came up. Sure, Ford tried direct-to-customer sales in the ‘90s but was promptly shut down with threats of fines, but no legislative move was made until recently, specifically after Tesla tried to break the existing model.

Tesla has a lot to lose in giving control of sales to dealerships. Being the primary manufacturer of electric automobiles, brand protection is very important to the company. If a customer has a bad experience with a dealership when purchasing a Tesla, the flack falls back on the brand. In choosing to eliminate the middleman, Tesla has complete control over brand image.

Protecting the oil industry probably has something to do with this. While still expensive, Tesla vehicles would be cheaper if sold directly to customers, allowing them to compete better with gas models.

State legislators have said West Virginia would be welcoming to Tesla, but only if it complies with the set manufacturer-dealership model.

The question is, does this model really promote a free market the conservative sponsors of the bill so adamantly support? Aren’t they always pushing for less regulation and government involvement in the coal industry, and shouldn’t that carry over to the auto industry?

Apparently, coal miner safety is way less important than making sure Tesla can’t sell its vehicles in West Virginia. The only thing that would do is further strengthen our economy, especially because so many other states are establishing similar bans. If West Virginia is one of the only states that allowed Tesla to sell, people would come here just to purchase Tesla vehicles, pumping more money into the state.

It’s a good thing we changed the state slogan from “Open for Business,” because we can’t possibly uphold that mindset with these kinds of regulations.