Here is some good news for Tesla owners in Connecticut, a state that’s been heavily favoring the whims of dealerships rather than Tesla and other EV makers. The Planning and Zoning Commission (PZC) of East Hartford has voted unanimously to approve Tesla’s application to build a service center, the Journal Inquirer reports. However, customers who want to buy a Tesla or parts for their Tesla still need to go out of state. So, this is progress — tiny progress, but still worth celebrating.
In April, the PZC voted to revoke a permit that was approved and then approved a new permit to build on the same lot. The key difference was the additional emphasis on Tesla’s promise not to sell any new or used vehicles (in the new permit). The old permit worded the project as an “electric car showroom and service center.” The new permit’s wording says it is now an “automotive service center facility” (“showroom” is gone). An attorney representing Tesla, Thomas Rechen, told the Journal Inquirer that the facility described in the new permit application would under no circumstances sell vehicles, parts, or any other products. It would only service vehicles.
“I will not walk out with brake parts in hand,” said Rechon. The new permit detailed that the facility’s uses include servicing vehicles, delivery, and indoor storage of new and pre-owned automobiles, energy products and offerings, and related parts and accessories. Michael Bula, CFO of Manchester-based Marcus Communications, spoke at the public hearing. He explained that he and several of his employees are Tesla owners who would love to have their vehicles serviced nearby.
He added that he was shocked that none of the local automotive dealers who have vehemently opposed Tesla’s move into Connecticut were at the public hearing. This is indeed shocking when we look back at their aggressive lobbying of the legislature and the lawsuit one dealership filed that opposed Tesla’s entrance into the state. In that lawsuit, Hoffman Auto Groups argued that proper procedures weren’t followed when the PZC approved InSite’s special-use permit application for Tesla. You can read more details about that here.
About the dealers, Bula said, “You know you’re fighting a losing fight when you’re using legislation to block them.” Bula added that Tesla wasn’t the only EV manufacturer that wanted to sell in Connecticut — Lucid Motors and Rivian have been eyeing the state. In fact, we interviewed James Chen, Vice President of Public Policy at Rivian and formerly in a similar position at Tesla, about this matter earlier this year. Listen to the interview here:
Jeffery Cormier, an East Hartford town planner, also pointed out the new application indicated that the facility will be a service center instead of a showroom. He mentioned that Tesla has operated a similar facility in Milford for years. “I never heard anything about that one, so if they’re going to do the same thing here, it seems like the state allows them to lease down there and they allow them to service vehicles, so it’s a good redevelopment of the site,” Cormier said.
Will Cross, a Tesla owner and member of the Tesla Owners Club of Connecticut, told the Journal Inquirer that he’d like to see more people driving EVs in his state. However, the difficulty of purchasing from some manufacturers and the lack of repair centers dissuade consumers. He lives in Union and the closest place where he can buy a Tesla is in Mount Kisco, NY. That’s two hours away. The nearest Tesla service center is either Milford, Boston, or Warwick, RI (about an hour and a half each).
“Just the convenience of East Hartford … you might get more people with electric vehicles,” he said. He also added that the Milford service center has always been backed up on appointments. Wait times of over two weeks are sometimes issued.
President Biden recently announced at a UAW-sponsored event that the goal is to have 50% of all vehicles sold in 2030 be plugin vehicles by 2030. I’m going to sound like a broken record here, but by banning companies such as Tesla, Lucid, and Rivian from selling EVs to their customers, several states are not helping us reach those EV goals.