The Supreme Judicial Court next week hears arguments on whether existing car dealers can sue to keep Tesla Motors from offering its electric cars directly to the public, rather than through franchised dealers.
A Norfolk Superior Court judge said the existing car dealers had no standing to sue Tesla for alleged unfair competition because the state law that bans direct manufacturer sales refers only to competition between car makers and their affiliated franchisees.
But in their brief to the state's highest court, the Massachusetts State Automobile Association, Herb Connolly, who owns a Chevy dealership in Framingham and Jake Kaplan, who owns a Land Rover dealership in Norwood (and who formerly owned a dealership for Fisker - a Tesla competitor that went bankrupt), argue that's bunk, that the law is not that specific and that Tesla would get an unfair advantage by trying to evade state consumer-protection laws.
They are asking the court to rule that they do, in fact, have standing to sue and to reinstate their lawsuit.
Bunk on you, Tesla argues in its own brief, saying the law is pretty clearly written, that neither of the two named dealers are being harmed directly by Tesla, since they're not Tesla dealers and that the fact that they might lose business to a superior product is not a good enough reason to try to subvert the law.
The court hears argument on Tuesday at 9 a.m. in the John Adams Courthouse downtown. Docket and briefs.
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