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Musk Takes Shortcut on New Mexico Law

Tesla store opens on tribal land, avoiding state regulation requiring the use of car dealers
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 10, 2021 4:34 PM CDT
Musk Skirts Law by Opening Tesla Store on Tribal Land
Elon Musk, Tesla CEO, talks to reporters at the construction site of the Tesla Gigafactory in Gruenheide near Berlin in August with Christian Democratic Union Chairman Armin Laschet.   (Patrick Pleul/dpa via AP)

(Newser) – Efforts to change New Mexico law to allow automakers to sell directly to consumers, without having to use independent dealers, failed for years—often after contentious debate. That shut out Tesla's business model. So Elon Musk found a legal island, the Hill reports, partnering with a tribal nation whose land isn't subject to state law. On Thursday, a company-owned Tesla store opened in a former Nambe Pueblo casino north of Santa Fe, complete with a ribbon-cutting and speeches by dignitaries. It's the first such agreement between Tesla and a sovereign Native entity. "This truly represents a historic moment," said Nambé Pueblo Gov. Phillip Perez, who delivered part of his speech in the native language of Tewa.

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The store is a little different from a standard dealership. There are two service bays and a wash bay, with a single car on display. There's no sales office, though cars are sold there, as well as online. Customers can "demo drive" a vehicle. People who already own Teslas are thrilled at not having to go to another state for repairs or other issues, per the Albuquerque Journal. "To get your car fixed, you had to think of hotel reservations and possibly a multiday stay," said Brian Dear, president of the Tesla Owners Club of New Mexico. "You didn't get a reservation for Thursday or Friday because they may not get to your car and then you would have to stay into the next week."

Local officials hope for a long-term partnership with Tesla, which plans to support tutors and scholarships for Nambé Pueblo students and work with the tribe on economic development. US Sen. Martin Heinrich said Tesla's move will increase access to electric vehicles, helping to decarbonize the nation's infrastructure. "We need to double down on this progress," he said. Tesla's arrival was opposed by New Mexico's car dealers, a state politician said, because of the different model. Sen. Jerry Ortiz y Pino said the franchises have a good deal going, per the Santa Fe New Mexican. "It’s not exactly a monopoly because there could be two dealerships in one community, but they limit the franchises so that they maintain highly profitable relationships with their franchisors." (Read more Tesla stories.)

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