Tesla’s license to sell cars at its Missouri showrooms expires Saturday after a circuit judge’s decision this week.
The California-based electric car maker lost a court battle in August when Cole County Circuit Court Judge Daniel Green ruled that Tesla is not a franchisee and its motor vehicle dealer licenses should not be renewed by the Missouri Department of Revenue.
On Wednesday, the judge denied Tesla’s motion to stay, or temporarily halt, the judgment while the ruling is appealed. Tesla’s motor vehicle licenses for its stores in University City and Kansas City expire Saturday.
In 2015, after Tesla was issued dealer licenses for its two Missouri stores, the Missouri Auto Dealers Association sued the revenue department, alleging Tesla’s direct-to-consumer model violates state law. MADA is a Jefferson City-based trade group that represents new-car and new-truck dealers.
In his ruling in favor of MADA’s motion for summary judgment in August, Judge Green wrote that “a single entity may not manufacture vehicles for sale in Missouri and possess a Missouri new motor vehicle dealer license,” under state law.
Tesla, led by billionaire CEO Elon Musk, had argued that the judgment should be stayed while the case is appealed, but Judge Green denied that request.
“I think it was correct under the law as we argued before the court,” Lowell Pearson, MADA’s attorney, said of the judge’s decision.
It’s unclear what will happen to Tesla’s facility near Olive Boulevard and Interstate 170 in University and its facilities in Kansas City. The University City store opened in 2013; Kansas City, in 2014. An employee at Tesla’s University City store Thursday said the sales operations were up in the air because of the court case.
“Our online renewal was rejected,” a Tesla spokesman confirmed Thursday. In some states where manufacturers’ sale of vehicles directly to customers is barred, Tesla operates service centers for its customers.
Tesla said it planned to immediately ask the Court of Appeals to issue a stay of the trial court’s decision “in order to prevent an immediate and unnecessary loss of jobs, tax revenue, consumer convenience, and consumer choice for Missourians,” the company said in an emailed statement.
“Tesla has been selling cars in Missouri for almost four years and employs numerous people at its Missouri sales locations,” Tesla’s statement said. “We do not believe that we should have to close up those sales operations while the Court of Appeals considers whether we may continue selling in the state.”
Missouri Department of Revenue spokeswoman Michelle Gleba declined to comment on the department’s appeal of the circuit court’s ruling, citing a policy against commenting on pending litigation.