Governor Chris Christie blamed the New Jersey legislature for a law that bars Tesla Motors from selling its cars directly to consumers.
New Jersey's eight-member Motor Vehicle Commission, which comprises members of Christie's cabinet and other gubernatorial appointees, voted unanimously March 11 to block Tesla from direct sales.
The Palo Alto auto maker is battling conventional dealers state by state over direct-to-consumer sales. Auto dealers in Ohio, New York, Minnesota, Georgia and elsewhere in the past year have fought Tesla, arguing that independent retailers are better for shoppers and vehicle owners. Texas dealers successfully pushed through a law setting the nation's toughest restrictions on Tesla. Arizona, Colorado and Virginia also imposed limits.
Christie, a 51-year-old Republican who has been encouraging businesses to locate to New Jersey to help revive its economy, said he didn't push Tesla out. Instead, he said, "The state legislature did" by prohibiting Tesla's business model.
"Tesla was operating outside the law," Christie said at a town-hall meeting in South River on Tuesday. "I have no problem with Tesla selling directly to customers, except it's against the law in New Jersey."
Elizabeth Jarvis-Shean, a Tesla spokeswoman, referred in an email to remarks by Tesla CEO Elon Musk on March 14. Musk, writing on the company website, said the two New Jersey stores, in Paramus and Short Hills, will become "galleries" where staff can answer questions, though "we will not be able to discuss price or complete a sale."
He directed potential customers to locations in New York City and King of Prussia, Pa.