OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – Tesla drivers fear proposed legislation related to electric vehicle manufacturers who sell cars without a franchise dealership model could drive the automaker out of the state.
Lawmakers backing SB512 aka “Hometown Auto jobs Act of 2022,” a carry over of previous legislation, have said the bill addresses issues between franchised dealers in Oklahoma, and “legacy manufacturers.”
Subsequently, automaker Tesla sent a message to its drivers and other proponents back in February asking them to contact their state representative to let them know of their opposition to Senate Bill 512, claiming that the bill could force Tesla to, among other concerns, close its existing service center locations in Oklahoma, while preventing the American automotive company from offering critical software updates via wireless, or-over-the-air capabilities.
Currently in Oklahoma, car manufacturers can’t operate stores where customers can pick up a car and drive it off the lot; the selling is left up to independent business owners.
“We should be embracing technology and not fighting against it,” said OKC resident and Tesla owner Chad Williamson, joining hundreds of other drivers asserting Senate Bill 512 is a step in the wrong direction for Oklahoma, if it places limitations on the service and selling of the 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 to the car, I should be able to do that,” he added, emphasizing that he doesn’t believe that automakers without those legacy dealership agreements will be threatened by the business models that the electric vehicle maker employs.
The partisan bill was amended and passed in the House Transportation Committee on April 7 with just one dissenting vote by lawmakers.
The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Mike Dobrinski, R-Okeene, declined an on-camera interview but said in an email to KFOR that that discussions were continuing with EV representatives, the OADA, and House leadership this week to come to “an understanding”, while adding that the biggest benefit to consumers would be protection of consumer data by making sure the access that manufacturers have to data is limited, and ensuring that consumers will have a choice of how they get over the air updates.
Attempts to contact Tesla for further comment were unsuccessful.
In an interview with KFOR Monday, supporters of the bill claimed that it would not affect auto owners.
“Senate Bill 512 is a is a free market pro-business bill. It does not limit any competition. It does not hurt any consumers from being able to get their vehicle serviced here, get warranty work done here,” said said Peter Hodges, who serves as President of Oklahoma’s Automobile Dealer’s Association, before adding that the bill will also not affect any consumer who owns a vehicle sold by a non-franchised manufacturer.
“None of those things are in the bill that limits progress, that keeps Oklahoma from being a top ten state,” he also noted. “It actually improves on the ability for Oklahoma to be a top ten state and also to keep the almost 300 dealers businesses profitable, [while protecting]those 30,000 direct and indirect jobs that are already employed here.”
“They will still be able to get their vehicle serviced and have warranty work done in Oklahoma,” he continued, also stating that the bill primarily affects small businesses, people who are employed by auto dealers, and drivers who purchase autos from new franchise auto dealers.
Apprised of that news Monday, Tesla owners were still not convinced.
“I want our politicians to work for the people. No one’s asking for this except the auto dealers,” said Williamson, who said he will consider returning to the Capitol for a second time to rally support.
“I’m not going to pretend I’m a lawyer and that I understand every single sentence of that bill. But I am in contact with the lobbyists who are in direct contact Tesla’s lawyers, who are interpreting this bill,” Williamson added. “They say it’s still a threat. So I have to believe them.”