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Mississippi enacts law effectively banning direct sale of electric vehicles

tesla brandon ms
Mississippi's first and possibly only Tesla dealership opened in July 2022 (Photo courtesy of Tesla)

Gov. Tate Reeves has signed a bill into law that, by effect, will ban the direct sale of electric vehicles in the state of Mississippi.

House Bill 401, which proponents argue is a simple reinforcement of a half-century-old franchise law, prohibits any in-state automobile manufacturers from the direct sale of vehicles through a brick-and-mortar location.

“This is clarifying the law and simply states that if you’re going to do business in Mississippi selling automobiles, you will do it through an independent dealer just the same way as the Fords and the GMs and all these guys have to do business,” Rep. Trey Lamar, a Republican who authored the legislation, said prior to the House’s vote on Jan. 12.

Opponents of the legislation believe the bill is nothing but a form of protectionism. Under current law, Mississippi requires a dealer license to sell vehicles. However, there’s no language restricting a manufacturer itself, such as Tesla recently did, from obtaining a license and selling directly to customers, rather than going through franchise dealers.

Since the inception of electric vehicles, the industry has capitalized on selling its cars through stores rather than dealerships. This legislation changes that completely in Mississippi.

“It’s always a sad day when elected officials let themselves be manipulated by money. Car dealerships are big political donors and they are the ones who pushed this bill in order to unfairly protect their outdated model,” Fred Lambert, editor of Electrek, said. “There’s no logical reason to prevent a car company, electric or not, from selling directly to the consumer if they are not competing with franchise dealers selling their products.”

Josh Hazel, president of the Tesla Owners’ Club of Mississippi, seconded Lambert’s thoughts, saying the bill is a form of government encroaching upon the state’s free market.

“It’s a horrible idea, and I’m surprised to see so many conservatives on board with this bill that ships jobs to other states,” Hazel said.

At this time, Reeves has not responded to a request for comment as HB 401 will likely prevent electric vehicle manufacturers from opening in Mississippi for the foreseeable future.

UPDATE: Following the publication of this article, Gov. Reeves’ office responded to a request for comment, saying, “Today, I signed HB401 to restore MS’s auto dealer franchise law back to how it had been interpreted for the last 50 years. Almost 200 small businesses in communities across our state are seeking assurances that big manufacturers can’t just destroy their businesses. That’s fair! I also recognize that innovation in this industry is inevitable. And with innovation comes new companies with new business models. 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.”

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