Missouri car dealers sue state over Tesla’s direct sales

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Car makers and dealers have to get with the program.

JEFFERSON CITY, MO. — The Missouri Automobile Dealers Association is suing the state revenue department for allowing electric car maker Tesla Motors to sell directly to consumers rather than using a dealership as a middleman.

The car dealers, including Reuther Ford Inc. and Osage Industries Inc., filed a lawsuit Thursday in Cole County Circuit Court claiming the department violated state law by licensing the California-based manufacturer as a franchise.

Department of Revenue spokeswoman Michelle Gleba said the agency doesn’t comment on pending litigation.

Car manufacturers typically provide cars to a franchised dealership to sell, but the department in 2013 licensed Tesla to sell its vehicles in a University City facility.

The lawsuit filed this week claims the department “created a non-level playing field where one entity — Tesla — is subject to preferential treatment and all bona fide dealers are discriminated against.”

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