Ohio auto dealers fight electric-car maker Tesla over ability to sell direct to customers

COLUMBUS, Ohio – Ohio auto dealers are sparring with California-based automaker Tesla, which is selling its next-generation electric cars from two Ohio storefronts.

Ohio is among states proposing to block future Tesla direct-sales stores on grounds they undercut traditional auto dealerships. New Jersey officials approved a regulation last Tuesday effectively prohibiting automakers from going straight to customers.

Tesla vice-president Diarmuid (DEER’-mihd) O’Connell visited Ohio legislative leaders that same day to try to discourage them from passing similar restrictions.

He argues the several hundred vehicles Tesla has sold in Ohio represent a fraction of the market. He says direct-to-consumer sales are needed to jumpstart electric-car technology and drive down prices.

Dealers with $2 billion in payroll annually say their businesses can only prosper when the law separates manufacturers and dealers.