NAMBÉ, NM — Auto maker Tesla has opened a store and repair shop on Native American land for the first time, a new approach to its years-long battle to sell cars directly to consumers and take car dealerships out of the process.
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The store, which opened last week, in Nambe Pueblo, north of Santa Fe, sits on tribal land that is not subject to state laws.
The electric car company can freely sell and service its vehicles in only about a dozen states, while in others it faces restrictions. Some, like New Mexico, prohibit Tesla from offering sales or repairs without a dealership. In January, the company struck a deal with Michigan to resolve its 2016 lawsuit, a symbolic victory that allowed it to sell in the backyard of the nation’s largest carmaker.
Supporters of Tesla say the shop partnered with a tribe in New Mexico to get state laws for the first time, though the idea has been in the works for years.
From Oklahoma to Connecticut and other states, consumers can’t buy Tesla because the company won’t partner with dealerships and hasn’t been successful in getting the courts or lawmakers to allow its direct sales model.
“There are a lot of sovereign Native American nations in these states that might be interested in Tesla,” said Brian Deer, president of the Tesla Owners Club of New Mexico. “I don’t believe at all that this will be the last.”
New Mexico, Alabama and Louisiana have the strictest restrictions, barring Teslas from operating both dealerships and repair shops. This makes the Tesla more expensive and more troublesome to repair. Owners have to get their cars serviced in neighboring states or through traveling Tesla technicians who fix problems they have with the van.
Deer said the New Mexico Tesla shop, built on the site of a former casino, is located between two gas stations along a highway about an hour and a half north of Albuquerque, where most of the state’s Tesla owners live.
While sales are restricted in neighboring Texas — where the company plans to build its pickup trucks next year — repair shops are allowed. New Mexico Tesla owners are traveling to El Paso, Texas or other out-of-state cities for repairs.
To buy Teslas, they have to drive for hours to pick them up or pay thousands of dollars to send them.
Howard Coe, a filmmaker who worked for a lab in Los Alamos, New York, said, “We drove a gas car — a Volvo station wagon — to Denver and then I was ‘lucky’ to be able to drive a gas-powered car back. got to.” Mexico, about 30 minutes from Nambe and about five hours from the nearest Colorado Tesla store.
Coe drove his wife’s Tesla sedan to Numbé’s new store on Tuesday to ask if the SUV he ordered could be delivered there. The store told him that it is not accepting deliveries for the foreseeable future and will not be making repairs until the end of this month.
Tribal officials, who brokered the deal over a two-year period, say it is in line with business interests and cultural values such as caring for the environment.
Carlos Vigil, president of Numb Pueblo Development Corporation, called Tesla’s service center “a renewable business that is in line with our belief system,” adding that the tribe has “responsibility for the land we’ve lived in for more than 1,000 years.”
Car dealership advocates say they respect Tribe’s decision, but they expect customers to buy electric cars from companies that comply with state regulations, arguing that dealerships can compete at lower prices and the state’s Can service vehicles in more parts of the
“We have the competition, we have the expertise, we are in your local communities,” said Ken Ortiz, president of the New Mexico Automotive Dealers Association. “We contribute taxes.”
New Mexico has tax treaties with the tribe for sales, gambling, and gasoline taxes. But tribal and state officials say it is unclear whether Tesla will have to pay vehicle sales tax or how the revenue will be divided between them.
Tesla, which disbanded its public relations department and has generally not responded to media inquiries, did not respond to a request for comment.
In response to a tweet complaining about wait times in the Northeast last month, CEO Elon Musk wrote, “Tesla will accelerate service center openings.”