For the past few years, Tesla Motors has fought battles with franchised car dealers over its direct-sales model on a state-by-state basis.

Feeling threatened by Tesla's company-owned stores, state auto dealer associations have campaigned against the carmaker, in some cases pursuing legislation to outlaw direct sales.

Tesla has won battles in some states, but remains unable to sell cars in others.

DON'T MISS: Tesla Continues To Try To Sell Electric Cars In Michigan; State Ignores It (Dec 2015)

Now, the debate over direct sales could move to the national stage.

On January 19, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) will hold a series of panel discussions on topics related to the auto industry.

One of those discussions will focus on state auto-dealer franchise laws.

Tesla Store opening in Westfield Mall, London, Oct 2013

Tesla Store opening in Westfield Mall, London, Oct 2013

It will address the question of whether "restrictions on direct distribution in this industry" are really in the public interest.

Tesla general counsel Todd Maron will be among the six panelists, along with Joel Sheltrown--vice president of government affairs for Elio Motors.

Elio Motors is raising funds to build an "84-mpg," two-seat, three-wheeled vehicle at a former General Motors plant in Shreveport, Louisiana.

ALSO SEE: FTC Calls Michigan's Tesla Ban 'Protectionism' For Dealers (May 2015)

The balance of the panel will represent non-manufacturer entities, including representatives from the New Jersey Coalition of Automotive Retailers, the American Automobile Association, and the National Automobile Dealers Association.

The FTC took an interest in the franchise-law question after legislators quietly passed a direct-sales ban in Michigan last year.

In a letter to those legislators, it called the ban "protectionism" for dealers, and said it is "likely harming both competition and consumers."

Elio Motors 84 mpg 3-wheeler [Image: Elio Motors]

Elio Motors 84 mpg 3-wheeler [Image: Elio Motors]

Interestingly, a proposed exemption for three-wheeled "autocycles" was introduced in April, seemingly helping Elio while continuing to snub Tesla.

The panel discussion will take place January 19 at 2:15 p.m. There will be a live webcast available on the FTC website.

Interested parties can also submit comments online, or by mail to Federal Trade Commission, Office of the Secretary, 600 Pennsylvania Avenue, Suite CC-5610 (Annex B), Washington, D.C. 20580.

Submissions should be labeled "Auto Distribution Workshop, Project No. P131202."


Follow GreenCarReports on Facebook and Twitter