Gov. Rick Perry made clear Monday that he’d like to see legislation to allow pricey Tesla electric cars to be sold directly to the public — rather than through the now-required dealer system — which could help Texas land a $5 billion lithium-ion battery factory the company plans to build by 2017.“These are old laws,” Perry said in a Fox Business Network interview, regarding the Texas law that bans direct sales of automobiles by manufacturers. “We live in a different world than we lived in 30 years ago, 10 years ago.”Speaking with Fox’s Maria Bartiromo, Perry said: “I think it’s time for Texans to have a very open conversation about this and talk about the pros and the cons. I’m going to think that the pros of allowing this to happen are going to outweigh the cons … I think the people in the State of Texas are basically going to say, ‘You know what? We don’t need to be protected’ ” by the dealer system.Lee Chapman, president of the Dallas Fort Worth Metropolitan New Car Dealers Association, took issue with Perry’s description of the current franchised dealer system as “antiquated,” and noted that Perry’s term as governor would end before any legislation that would change the existing law could be proposed in Austin.“We respectfully disagree with the governor,” Chapman told the Star-Telegram. “Unfortunately for the governor, [such] legislation would be presided over by a new governor.”Chapman insisted that Tesla will consider Texas for its factory because of the state’s business-friendly environment, regardless of the current difficulties Texans have buying its car in the state. “You don’t need to trade anything” to land the so-called gigafactory,” he said.That said, Chapman made his own pitch in Tesla’s direction. “In Dallas-Fort Worth, we have dealers who would love the opportunity to sell Teslas,” he said. “They have experience with low-volume, high-end products.”At what Tesla calls “galleries” in Austin and Houston, Texans can now view vehicles but aren’t able to discuss price, take test drives or place orders. The California maker plans to open a gallery at NorthPark Center in Dallas later this year. Perry said Texas is one of four states being seriously considered for the factory project, the others being Arizona, Nevada and New Mexico. Arizona also has a law that restricts direct sales of automobiles.“Hopefully, the legislators and the officials in Texas will have a very open, thoughtful conversation about do we want to lead the country when it comes to manufacturing,” Perry said.
Barry Shlachter, 817-390-7718 Twitter: @bshlachter