A bill that would allow some car manufacturers to bypass local auto dealers and sell directly to consumers in New Mexico, passed its first committee Thursday afternoon. The Senate Public Affairs Committee approved Senate Bill 243 along party lines, with only Democratic members voting to advance the proposal. The bill would allow companies like electric car manufacturer Tesla to open service centers and sales showrooms in the state. Current law mandates that vehicle manufacturers must sell through local, franchised dealers. The bill narrowly changes the state franchise law, and would only allow companies that do not have a franchise business model to sell in the state.
New Mexico has a rich car club culture, ranging from lowrider and vintage cars to modern models too fast and too furious for many people. But on a cool Sunday in Santa Fe, about 30 minutes from the state capitol, another group of car enthusiasts gathered to discuss their automotive passion: Teslas. The Tesla Owners Club of New Mexico met in the parking lot of a rustic New Mexican restaurant, just a few days before a legislative committee was expected to vote on whether to allow the automotive upstart a chance to set up shop in New Mexico. The group of about two dozen sleek cars were a far, yet quiet, cry from the loud engines, custom, aftermarket paint jobs and flashy chrome one might expect from a traditional New Mexico car club. Another difference that unites New Mexico Tesla owners is that none of these cars were purchased or can be serviced at a traditional auto dealer in the state.
State Sen. James White, R-Albuquerque, recently joined state legislators from around the country for a meeting of the Council of State Governments in Detroit, Michigan. At one event, he and two others sat in a car. White wasn’t driving. Neither was anyone else in the car. In fact, there was no steering wheel.