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Tesla, Utah Auto Dealers Back At The Negotiating Table Over Licensing

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Tesla’s Model S is the top selling electric vehicle in the U.S., but Utahns hoping to get their hands on one have been out of luck thanks to an obscure state law. That's why a Utah lawmaker is bringing back a bill that would allow the California-based automaker to sell its cars directly.

For three years, the company has tried and failed to dismantle the state’s Franchise Act, which protects third-party dealerships and prohibits direct sales by manufacturers.

Rep. Kim Coleman, R-West Jordan, had tried to chip away at the law in previous sessions, but faced intense backlash from the autodealership lobby. A new bill she’s introducing this year might finally be the key to compromise.

“This year it originated with the auto dealers,” she said of H.B. 369, published on Monday. "So, for them, to start out with a position, and they've been negotiating with Tesla ... and I'm more of a facilitator this year."

Coleman’s bill would create a provision that allows Tesla to apply for a direct-sale manufacturer license.

“Everybody, all the parties feel like this happens this year," she said. 

Demand for electric vehicles is on the rise, but they still makes up less than 1 percent of Utah’s total fleet. If it passes, Coleman’s legislation could put even more EVs on the road.

Julia joined KUER in 2016 after a year reporting at the NPR member station in Reno, Nev. During her stint, she covered battleground politics, school overcrowding, and any story that would take her to the crystal blue shores of Lake Tahoe. Her work earned her two regional Edward R. Murrow awards. Originally from the mountains of Western North Carolina, Julia graduated from UNC-Chapel Hill in 2008 with a degree in journalism. She’s worked as both a print and radio reporter in several states and several countries — from the 2008 Beijing Olympics to Dakar, Senegal. Her curiosity about the American West led her to take a spontaneous, one-way road trip to the Great Basin, where she intends to continue preaching the gospel of community journalism, public radio and podcasting. In her spare time, you’ll find her hanging with her beagle Bodhi, taking pictures of her food and watching Patrick Swayze movies.
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