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Senator Shirley K. Turner (D-Mercer)

TRENTON — A bill sponsored by Senator Shirley K. Turner that would allow New Jersey consumers to buy electric cars directly from a manufacturer was approved today by the Senate Commerce Committee.

The bill, S-2098, would reverse last year’s decision by the state Motor Vehicle Commission to ban car manufacturers like Tesla from selling directly to consumers. The restriction of direct sales has been widely criticized as harmful to the state’s economy and its environment.

“We have to work to attract new industries to our state. Electric cars can help grow the economy while providing residents with the freedom to buy environmentally-friendly vehicles,” said Turner (D-Hunterdon/Mercer). “The regulation adopted by the Motor Vehicle Commission hinders the state’s economic future and impedes upon consumers’ ability to purchase electric cars in New Jersey, and forces them to make their purchases and spend their money out-of-state.”

Tesla Motors business model depends on direct sales to customers. In March of 2014, the Motor Vehicle Commission voted unanimously on a rule to require that all new vehicle sales go through franchised retail dealers. The decision effectively turned Tesla store locations in Garden State Plaza and The Mall at Short Hills into showrooms where staff can answer questions but can not discuss prices or close sales. Consumers will now have to go to New York or Pennsylvania to purchase their environmentally-friendly cars unless the Legislature acts.

Turner’s bill amends the current law to allow electric motor vehicle manufacturers to sell directly to customers as long as the manufacturer is licensed by the MVC. It would permit companies like Tesla Motors to directly sell its vehicles at a maximum of four locations in the state and provide one servicing facility. Turner said the legislation is necessary to help support this nascent industry that promises to help wean the nation off its dependence on oil, provide jobs and help combat harmful pollution.

“Bringing in innovative industries that can boost our economy, help position ourselves in the future, and provide a cleaner environment for our residents should be a priority. Last year’s decision has placed us a step back in the game with serious repercussions,” said Senator Turner. “It is now up to the Legislature to reverse this inflexible policy to help support promising companies like Tesla Motors in expanding their sales in New Jersey.”

Turner noted that electric cars can save consumers a lot of money by freeing them from the rising costs of gas.

“The cost of gas is a heavy burden for many families,” added Turner. “If electric cars can break the dependence we have on gas-operated vehicles, then we should be on board to support this.”

The bill was approved with a vote of 6-0. It is pending for consideration by the Senate.


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