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Rick Perry on Texas Tesla Ban: Maybe We Should Reconsider

Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/gageskidmore/

It’s amazing what the promise of $5 billion in investments and 6,500 jobs can do. Suddenly, leading politicians in two states that have presented two large threats to Tesla Motors (NASDAQ:TSLA) have done a near-complete 180 and are courting the electric vehicle startup with favorable legislation that arguably had no shot at passing if Tesla wasn’t considering their states for its Gigafactory location.

After handing Tesla one of its more high-profile legal defeats when it passed a bill banning sales of Tesla’s Model S sedan through factory-owned stores, Texas — more specifically, its governor, Rick Perry — has called for a review of the “antiquated” rules that give car dealerships an advantage in competing with the company.

“Tesla’s a big project,” Perry was quoted as saying by The Dallas Morning News, referring to the company’s Gigafactory. “The cachet of being able to say we put that manufacturing facility in your state is hard to pass up.” He added that it’s in the “best interest” of Texans to revisit those rules, or what “some would say are antiquated protections … for the car dealers. The people of Texas will say, We don’t need to be protected. We like to be able to negotiate straight away.’”

Perry is now requesting that Texas lawmakers offer a “very open, thoughtful conversation about do we want to lead the country when it comes to manufacturing.” Arizona, New Mexico, and California are also in the running for the new plant, which promises to bring with it some brisk economic activity.

Tesla Model S, photographed in Switzerland by James Lipman // jameslipman.com

Perry’s statements are notably interesting since they follow Arizona’s decision to strike down a similar bill with anti-Tesla language built in. Conveniently, the bill fell through once it was revealed that Arizona was on the shortlist for potential locations for Tesla’s big factory.

Of course, part of it, too, could be Perry seeing the verbal licking that New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie took when New Jersey voted to ban sales of the Tesla Model S earlier this month. In addition to Tesla’s own rebuke of the Christie administration, there was a bipartisan public outcry, as well. Perry might well be trying to generate some positive light for his own cabinet.

Naturally, the dealer lobby isn’t happy with Perry’s remarks. Lee Chapman, the president of the Dallas-Fort Worth Metropolitan New Car Dealers Association, said the association “respectfully disagrees” with the governor, according to The Dallas Monring News. “I think it’s time for Texans to have an open conversation about this, the pros and the cons,” Perry said. “I’m gonna think the pros of allowing this to happen outweigh the cons.”

“The system we have was put into effect by the state to protect consumers and dealers,” Chapman said, adding that dealers are “always open to discussion. But at this point, we have not been given anything to discuss other than the right to sell cars here in exchange for a plant.”