Electric car stores will be limited in Mississippi
JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves signed a bill Tuesday that restricts electric car makers from selling vehicles in person unless they open franchised dealerships.
Defying calls from some other Republicans in the Legislature to veto the measure, Reeves passed House Bill 401, introduced by Republican Rep. Trey Lamar of Senatobia. The law would force electric car companies like Tesla and Rivian to sell vehicles through franchisees instead of company-owned stores, as they operate today.
“Nearly 200 small businesses in communities across our state are seeking assurances that large manufacturers can̵[ads1]7;t just destroy their businesses. That’s fair!” Reeves, a Republican, said in a statement posted on social media. “I also recognize that innovation in this industry is inevitable. And with innovation comes new companies with new business models. I’m committed to finding long-term solutions – in a constantly changing market.”
The bill does not restrict the sale of electric cars, as people can buy them online. But if they want to buy an electric car in person, they’ll have to drive to the state’s only Tesla store in Brandon, which will be allowed to stay open under the new law. Tesla or any other electric car company could not open a new physical location to sell cars unless they entered into a franchise agreement.
Before the bill passed in a vote of 39 to 13 parties on March 3, it sparked an internal debate among GOP lawmakers. Opponents said it would disrupt the auto market and stop electric car makers from bringing new technology and jobs to the state. Advocates said the law would ensure that all automakers, regardless of their business model, play by the same rules.
Republican Sen. Brice Wiggins, a Republican from Pascagoula, had hoped Reeves would veto the bill. Lawmakers aimed to attract Tesla to Mississippi’s Gulf Coast, an area Wiggins called the state’s economic driver.
“In today’s world, if you don’t innovate, you lose out. We as a state cannot afford to lose, Wiggins told The Associated Press on Tuesday. “My vote against the bill was a vote for capitalism, competition and innovation rather than a policy of protectionism.”
Michael Goldberg is a staff member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on hidden issues. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/mikergoldberg.