A new bill signed by New Jersey Governor Chris Christie will once again allow Tesla Motors to sell its electric cars in the state.
Tesla operated its direct-sale retail stores in New Jersey until almost exactly a year ago, when the Christie administration quietly enacted a rule change that essentially mandated that all new cars be sold through traditional franchised dealerships.
That added New Jersey to the list of battlefield states in the ongoing war between Tesla Motors and lobbyists representing franchised dealers, who have worked state by state to make Tesla's direct-sales model illegal.
The bill Christie signed will let Tesla operate up to four retail locations in New Jersey, plus one service center, according to NJ.com.
The bill, A3216, was introduced last summer, and applies to all makers of zero-emission vehicles, not just Tesla.
Tesla Store - Portland OR
It will allow Tesla to return to selling cars at its stores in Paramus and Short Hills, which have operated as showrooms only for the past year.
The law--which takes effect immediately--also requires that Tesla operate one service center, which it already does in Paramus.
Last year, the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission (NJMVC) moved with virtually no warning to issue new rules that put an end to Tesla direct sales.
The NJMVC required all dealers to provide a franchise agreement in order to receive a state license.
That was impossible for Tesla; it's both the manufacturer and the distributor of its vehicles, and cannot produce an agreement with itself.
The new rules also required dealers to maintain 1,000-square-foot facilities with on-site servicing, which runs counter to Tesla's model of using smaller spaces in shopping malls.
Tesla Store Los Angeles [photo: Misha Bruk / MBH Architects]
The move drew heat from Tesla, electric-car advocates, and Governor Christie's Democratic opponents in the state legislature.
While Christie could have waited as long as six week, he wasted no time signing the bill into law yesterday.
With his signature, New Jersey rejoins the ranks of states where people can buy Tesla electric cars--but the battle continues elsewhere.