Tesla Motors Inc (NASDAQ:TSLA) stock jumped from $223 to just under $235 today after the New Jersey Legislature voted 77-0 to allow the company to sell directly to the public, the first step in reversing a previous ruling from the state’s Motor Vehicle Commission that had prohibited direct-to-consumer auto sales. The bill, which would allow zero emission auto manufacturers licensed prior to January 14, 2014 to open four dealerships as long as they also open a service center, still has to be passed by the state Senate, which is also controlled by the Democratic Party, and then be signed by Governor Chris Christie.
Wedbush sees strong support for Tesla in NJ Senate
“We believe that there will be similar strong support for the bill in the New Jersey Senate and expect Tesla will have the authorization to open two additional stores in New Jersey by the end of the year,” writes Wedbush Securities analyst Craig Irwin, who rates Tesla Motors Inc (NASDAQ:TSLA) as Outperform with a $275 price target.
While Tesla Motors Inc’s (NASDAQ:TSLA) stock price has since fallen back to $230 in intraday trading, that’s following an 8% rise yesterday on anticipation that the bill would pass. While the Senate vote looks promising, the Motor Vehicle Commission that blocked Tesla from making direct sales in the first place is made up of Governor Christie’s nominees, so it might be harder to get his support.
Christie administration cited lack of legislation in previous opposition
The Christie administration has previously said that it “does not find it appropriate to unilaterally change the way cars are sold in New Jersey without legislation,” reports Stacie Sherman for Bloomberg. Tesla Motors Inc (NASDAQ:TSLA) has accused Governor Christie of acting on behalf of auto dealerships and not negotiating in good faith, but if his objection really did center on the lack of legislation for Tesla’s new business model then he might be willing to sign the bill.
Tesla Motors Inc (NASDAQ:TSLA) has met resistance in multiple states for its direct-to-consumer sales model. Many states have laws prohibiting auto manufacturers from competing with the dealerships they sell to. Since Tesla doesn’t sell to dealerships it isn’t affected by such laws, much to dealer associations’ dismay. The company is still supply-limited, but it is trying to clean up the patchwork of where it is allowed to sell cars as it ramps up production in the coming years.