TRENTON, N.J. -- Electric-car company Tesla Motors might be able to stay plugged in in New Jersey.
The Assembly's consumer affairs committee on Thursday unanimously advanced a bill that would allow electric car manufacturers to sell vehicles directly to residents. The companies would be required to operate maintenance facilities in the state.
The bill came months after the state Motor Vehicle Commission implemented regulations that require new-car dealers to have franchise agreements before they can be licensed.
The rules effectively prohibit Tesla from using its direct sales business model in the state. Tesla is fighting that decision in court.
The company, based in Palo Alto, has been selling cars at two locations in New Jersey for about two years. Its electric cars retail for around $60,000 before incentives.
Lawmakers heard from advocates Thursday saying electric cars have environmental, health and economic benefits.
Paul Kaufman, the director of advocacy for Greenfaith, an interfaith environmental group in Highland Park, said New Jersey's air is polluted and more electric cars will help. He said that if Tesla's model is banned, it could have broader consequences. "Failure to pass this bill will inhibit the technology," he said.
But an auto industry group says Tesla's business model stifles competition.
On Thursday, only one person spoke against the bill. That was Amy Brink, a lobbyist with the Washington-based Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers.
She asked the committee to consider adding some protections for car dealerships that have been adopted in New York and Ohio.