GOP Lawmakers Pushing Bill to Help Tesla Sell Cars in Wisconsin

October 4, 2017

A bill to allow Tesla Motors to open dealerships to sell and service its electric cars in Wisconsin was proposed Wednesday by GOP lawmakers.

The measure would exempt electric auto manufacturers from state laws that bar auto and truck makers from selling their product directly to consumers or servicing their own products. The bill is sponsored by Sen. Chris Kapenga, of Delafield, and Rep. Rob Brooks, of Saukville, who said Wisconsin would join 23 other states that allow Tesla to sell and service its vehicles if the measure is passed.

The lawmakers said the proposal grants an exemption only for electric auto manufacturers. The law remains in place for traditional dealerships in order to protect them from manufacturers of gas-powered vehicles from opening their own dealer and service centers, they said.

Currently, Wisconsin residents have to purchase and service their Tesla cars outside the state.

Tesla Motors contributed $5,200 to legislative candidates and committees between January 2011 and June 2017, including two corporate contributions of $2,500 to the Committee to Elect a Republican Senate and the Republican Assembly Campaign Committee.

The proposal drew swift opposition from auto dealers, who claimed the current dealership laws benefit consumers by promoting competition.

Auto and truck dealers contributed more than $1.1 million to Wisconsin legislative and statewide candidates between January 2011 and June 2017, including about $626,000 to Republican Gov. Scott Walker.

Current legislators accepted about $349,250 from auto and truck dealers, and most of those contributions, about $290,550, went to Republicans who control the Assembly and Senate by comfortable margins. Top legislative recipients were the Republican Assembly Campaign Committee, $40,350, the Committee to Elect a Republican Senate, about $27,200, and GOP Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, of Juneau, $23,600.

Top industry donors to legislative and statewide candidates between January 2011 and June 2017 were:

Russ Darrow Jr., of West Bend, chairman of the Russ Darrow Group, and his wife, Susan, $79,775;

David Lynch, of Burlington, chairman of the Lynch Dealerships, $56,250;

Willis and Reba Johnson, of Franklin, Tenn., owners of Copart, $55,000;

Jim Click, of Tucson, Ariz., president of the Jim Click Automotive Team, and his wife, Vicki, $45,000;

A political action committee operated by the Council of Auto and Truck Retailers, $46,200.