Laurel White

Wisconsin Public Radio

Electric car manufacturer Tesla would be able to open dealerships and sell directly to consumers in Wisconsin under a new proposal in the state Legislature.

A decades-old state law bars car manufacturers from selling right to consumers.

Supporters of the bill say hundreds of people in Wisconsin are clamoring for the opportunity to buy a Tesla, and currently have to cross state lines to do so.

"I had to go to Highland Park in Chicago to buy a Tesla," said Chris Knight of Green Bay, who spoke at a Capitol press conference on the bill Wednesday. "What's that all about? I want to buy a Tesla here in Wisconsin. And my next Tesla will be in 2018, next year. I want to buy that one in Wisconsin."

Supporters of the bill argue current law impedes the free market. They also say allowing Tesla to open shops in Wisconsin will create jobs in car sales and service.

"To me, the question is easy: why should the government stand in the way of consumers choices and dictate what cars they can buy and where they can buy them?" said Rep. Rob Brooks, R-Saukville, one of the bill’s sponsors.

But the Wisconsin Automobile & Truck Dealers Association opposes the bill. Bill Sepic, president of the association, said current laws governing car sales are in place for a reason.

"Those are in place to help the consumer, they're in place to help manufacturers, they're in place to help dealerships." he said.

Sepic said dealerships protect consumers by promoting competitive prices and better service.

The bill is being circulated for co-sponsorship in the state Capitol.

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