Tesla opens New Mexico store on tribal land, dodging state restrictions

10 states, including New Mexico, have laws banning direct sales

Tesla has opened its first store and repair shop on Native American land, dodging car dealership laws that have stymied its expansion plans across the country. 

The Elon Musk-helmed carmaker opened a store and service center Nambé Pueblo, a tribal area about 25 minutes north of Santa Fe that is not subject to laws that have prevented Tesla from opening stores elsewhere from the state. 

Tesla only sells its vehicles to customers directly, while most other automakers partner with third-party dealerships. Ten states including New Mexico, Texas and Connecticut have laws banning direct sales, so many Tesla customers have had to cross state lines to purchase their vehicles. 

Tesla owners, Tesla employees and local political leaders gather at the service bay doors during an event on Sept. 9, 2021, to celebrate a partnership between Tesla and the Nambé Pueblo after the electric car company repurposed a defunct casino into (Jim Weber/Santa Fe New Mexican via AP)

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The New Mexico store marks the first time Tesla has worked with a tribe to get around state dealership laws. Supporters of such laws say they protect middle-class jobs and lead to lower prices by forcing dealerships to compete, while critics say people can get information online and direct sales would lower costs.

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Until now, New Mexico Tesla buyers had to pay thousands of dollars to have their cars shipped or travel to other states to pick them up. For repairs, owners had to travel to service centers in Colorado, Arizona or Texas, according to the Santa Fe New Mexican newspaper.

Howard Coe, a filmmaker who works for a laboratory in Los Alamos, New Mexico, told the Associated Press that he and his wife previously had to drive five hours to Colorado to pick up a Tesla he had purchased. 

The opening ceremony for Tesla’s store, which was held last week, was attended by both of New Mexico’s US senators, Democrats Martin Heinrich and Ben Ray Luján, the paper reported.

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Heinrich has pushed for funding in the Senate’s infrastructure package to build electric vehicle charging stations, according to the paper. 

The Tesla store is located an hour and a half north of Albuquerque, where most of the state’s roughly 1,800 registered Tesla owners reportedly live. 

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Tesla’s practice of refusing to allow third-party dealerships or repair shops has led to excessive wait times for maintenance across the country, some owners say.

In response to a complaint from a Tesla owner in August about three week-long wait times for service in the northeast, Elon Musk wrote on Twitter that the company "will expedite service center reopenings."

This story first appeared in the New York Post