Tesla owners fear a bill could drive the automaker out of Oklahoma

OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) — Tesla drivers are concerned that proposed legislation affecting electric vehicle makers that sell cars without a franchised dealership model could drive the automaker out of the state.

Lawmakers backing SB512 aka the “Hometown Auto jobs Act of 2022,” a carryover from previous legislation, said the bill resolves issues between Oklahoma franchise dealers and “legacy manufacturers.”

Subsequently, automaker Tesla sent a message to its drivers and other supporters in February asking them to contact their state representative to express their opposition to Senate Bill 512, saying that the bill could force Tesla to, among other concerns, close its existing service centers in Oklahoma, while preventing the U.S. auto company from offering critical software updates via wireless or over-the-air capabilities.

Currently in Oklahoma, automakers cannot operate stores where customers can pick up a car and drive it off the lot; the sale is left to independent contractors.

“We should be embracing technology and not fighting against it,” said OKC resident and Tesla owner Chad Williamson, joining hundreds of other drivers who say Senate Bill 512 is a step in the right direction. wrong direction for Oklahoma, if it imposes limits on service and sales. American-made product.

“If I want to go on the internet and buy a Tesla and have it serviced here and get my Wi-Fi updates on the car, I should be able to do that,” he added, pointing out that he doesn’t believe that automakers without these old dealership agreements will be threatened by the business models used by the electric vehicle maker.

The partisan bill was amended and passed by the House Transportation Committee on April 7 with only one dissenting vote from lawmakers.

The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Mike Dobrinski, R-Okeene, declined an on-camera interview, but said in an email to KFOR that talks were continuing this week with EV representatives, l ‘OADA and House leaders to reach “an agreement”. , while adding that the biggest benefit for consumers would be the protection of consumer data by ensuring that manufacturers’ access to data is limited and ensuring that consumers have a choice in how they obtain live updates.

Attempts to contact Tesla for further comment were unsuccessful.

In an interview with KFOR on Monday, supporters of the bill said it would not affect car owners.

“Senate Bill 512 is a pro-free market business bill. It does not limit any competition. It doesn’t hurt any consumer to be able to have their vehicle serviced here, have their warranty work done here,” said Peter Hodges, who is president of the Oklahoma Automobile Dealers Association, before adding that nor will the bill affect consumers who own a vehicle sold by a non-franchised manufacturer.

“None of these things are in the bill that limits progress, that prevents Oklahoma from being a top ten state,” he also noted. “It actually improves Oklahoma’s ability to be in the top ten states and maintain the profitability of the approximately 300 dealer businesses, [while protecting]those 30,000 direct and indirect jobs that are already employed here.

“They will still be able to have their vehicle serviced and warranty work done in Oklahoma,” he continued, also saying that the bill primarily affects small businesses, people employed by car dealerships and car dealerships. drivers who buy cars from new car franchises. dealers.

Notified of this news on Monday, Tesla owners were still not convinced.

“I want our politicians to work for the people. Nobody’s asking for that except car dealerships,” said Williamson, who said he would consider returning to the Capitol a second time to rally support.

“I’m not going to pretend that I’m a lawyer and that I understand every sentence of this bill. But I am in contact with lobbyists who are in direct contact with Tesla lawyers, who are interpreting this bill,” Williamson added. “They say it’s still a threat. So I have to believe them. »

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