Just as the new year began, Tesla was dealt a fresh setback in its campaign to make its electric cars directly available to customers throughout the U.S.
Tesla's license to sell cars through its Missouri showrooms expired Saturday, following a circuit-court judge's decision that prevented renewal.
In an August court case, Cole County Circuit Court Judge Daniel Green ruled that Tesla is not a franchise, and that consequently its dealer license should not be renewed by the Missouri Department of Revenue.
DON'T MISS: Michigan says Tesla sales ban not unconstitutional, responding to lawsuit (Dec 2016)
Last week, the judge denied Tesla's motion to temporarily halt implementation of that judgment while the case was repealed, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch (via Jalopnik).
UPDATE: Two days ago, the Missouri Court of Appeals ruled that Tesla could reopen its three Missouri stores when it granted the company's motion to stay, or temporarily halt, that judgment, as noted by the Post-Dispatch.
Tesla Motors had been granted a license to sell cars through showrooms in University City and Kansas City, Missouri, in 2015.
Kansas City, Missouri, by Flickr user Paul Sableman (Used under CC License)
Shortly after that, the Missouri Auto Dealers Association (MADA)—a lobbying group that represents the state's franchised dealers—sued the state revenue department, alleging Tesla's direct sales violated state law.
In August, Judge Green ruled in favor of MADA, saying that state law prevented a vehicle manufacturer from holding a Missouri dealer license.
MADA was naturally pleased with the decision that closed Tesla's stores on January 1.
"I think it was correct under the law as we argued before the court," Lowell Pearson—MADA's attorney—said of the decision.
A Tesla statement at that time said the company would ask the Missouri Court of Appeals to issue a stay of the trial court's decision while the appeals process is ongoing, to prevent "an immediate and unnecessary loss of jobs, tax revenue, consumer convenience, and consumer choice for Missourians."
Tesla noted that it "employs numerous people at its Missouri sales locations" and said it does not believe it should have to close those locations while the Court of Appeals considers the case.
Tesla Store Los Angeles [photo: Misha Bruk / MBH Architects]
That appeal is the one that was granted this week.
In its more recent battles with state auto-dealer associations, Tesla has grown more aggressive.
While the automaker was previously willing to cut deals and accept limits on the number of stores it could operate in a given state, it is now using legal action to push back against restrictions.
Tesla is now suing the state of Michigan over controversial 2014 changes to the state's franchise laws that prevent it from selling cars there.
Overturning the Michigan rules could set a precedent that would allow Tesla to challenge similar laws in other states in court.
[hat tip: Brian Henderson]