Tesla car supporters gather at the Washington state Capitol on Monday, Feb. 17, 2014, in Olympia, Wash. The electric car company, which has sales and service operations in Seattle and Bellevue, opposes measures being considered by the Legislature that would prevent it from opening additional facilities in the state. (AP Photo/Rachel La Corte)
OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) — Tesla enthusiasts drove their electric cars to Olympia on Monday to protest legislation they said would prevent the company from opening and operating additional facilities in Washington state.
Tesla lobbyist Daniel Witt told supporters at the Capitol that under legislation currently proposed, Tesla Motors Inc. would not be able to expand beyond the two stores and service centers it operates in Seattle and Bellevue.
Language in House Bill 2524 and its companion, Senate Bill 6272, says the Department of Licensing would no longer be able to issue additional facility licenses to Tesla because of its status as a vehicle manufacturer and not as a dealer. The company sells cars directly from the manufacturer to the consumer.
“We’re eager to see this language out of the bill,” Witt said.
Bill Hotchkiss, of Vancouver, Wash., said he and his wife bought their Tesla Model S sedan online in April 2013, a process he called seamless. Hotchkiss said that they came to Olympia Monday, in part, because, “it cost us nothing to get here.” The car can go up to 265 miles on a single battery charge.
Lawmakers in both chambers said Monday afternoon they were working on amendments to the bills that would reduce the impact on Tesla.
Bill sponsor Sen. Mike Hewitt, R-Walla Walla, said that although his bill was created to keep the Palo Alto, Calif., automaker from adding similar showrooms, he was open to an amendment making sure it would be able to keep its already established facilities.
“I’m trying to help keep dealerships alive,” he said.
Rep. Reuven Carlyle, D-Seattle, said he and Rep. Matt Manweller, R-Ellensburg, introduced an amendment to HB2524 Monday afternoon. It would allow Tesla and other new car companies to continue their business and expand it.
“The purpose of our amendment is to withdraw any prohibition on Tesla to conduct sales,” Carlyle said.
The Model S begins at about $70,000 but can top $100,000 with options. Washington state has the most Tesla vehicle sales per capita, Witt said.
Both bills, which also clarify existing laws between car dealers and manufacturers, have passed through one committee and are in their respective Rules Committees.