Mississippi's sole Tesla store plays by different rules than traditional car dealers in the state. A new state law is changing that
Like the rest of the US, Mississippi has laws that restrict car dealerships from selling directly to consumers.
But Tesla has skirted those regulations by calling its lone location in the state a "store" instead of a "dealership."
A new law that closes the loophole was passed by Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves Tuesday.
A Mississippi Tesla store gets to play by different rules than its counterparts in the traditional auto dealership industry. But a new state law is set to level the playing field.
Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves signed a bill Tuesday that would force electric vehicle manufacturers to enter into franchise agreements in order to sell cars at brick-and-mortar stores, the Associated Press reported. The law will place EV companies under the same regulations as traditional carmakers.
Tesla currently has one store operating in the state, which has skirted regulations that face traditional car manufacturers by classifying itself as a "store" and not a "dealership," the AP reported.
"Almost 200 small businesses in communities across our state are seeking assurances that big manufacturers can't just destroy their businesses. That's fair!" Reeves wrote in a tweet Tuesday.
According to State Sen. Daniel Sparks, the law would not force the closure of the existing Tesla store in Mississippi — instead, the store would be grandfathered in under the law, but others like it would be prevented from opening, per the AP.
"We're saying if you choose to have a brick-and-mortar dealership, you have to follow the same laws that everyone else has to follow," Sparks said, per the Associated Press. "Please don't tell me Tesla's car doesn't identify as a car."
In a Twitter thread, Reeves seemed to agree.
"I also recognize that innovation in this industry is inevitable. And with innovation comes new companies with new business models," the governor wrote. "I am committed to find long-term solutions—in an ever changing market. I look forward to working with all parties going forward to do just that."
—Governor Tate Reeves (@tatereeves) March 14, 2023
Opponents of the Mississippi bill have said it impedes the free market by imposing a regulation on Tesla and other EV manufacturers, while proponents argue the bill would level the playing field.
State Sen. Joey Fillingane said the bill could discourage EV companies from conducting business in Mississippi, warning that it could harm opportunity in the state.
"Maybe we just like being last all the time. Maybe it's a badge of honor — we're the last ones to change," Fillingane said, per AP. "If we're not careful ... we could deprive our citizens of opportunities they really ought not to be deprived of."
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