The first visible signs of Tesla’s pending arrival in the Richmond market have emerged in the West End.
The electric carmaker’s controversial dealership in Henrico County – its first in the region and second in the state – is taking shape at 9850 W. Broad St., where it is converting a long-vacant former furniture store.
Tesla signage is hung and multiple work crews are on site. The construction progress comes even as the California-based company remains in a legal skirmish with the Virginia Automobile Dealers Association, which has argued the dealership cannot open based on state law.
The Virginia DMV commissioner ruled in Tesla’s favor on the matter in November, but the VADA, which represents franchised car dealers around the state, has appealed to overturn that decision in Richmond Circuit Court.
VADA argues that state law prevents car manufacturers from operating their own dealerships, unless no other licensed dealers would be willing and able to run such a dealership independently “in a manner consistent with the public interest.”
Tesla only operates corporate-owned dealerships arguing that its business model doesn’t have room for the mark-ups typical of the franchised dealership approach.
VADA also argues that a Tesla dealership in Richmond would violate a previous settlement between the parties that allowed the carmaker to open a storefront in Northern Virginia. That agreement included a provision by which Tesla could not expand in the state for 30 months.
The DMV commissioner’s decision also went against the recommendation of a hearing officer who oversaw public debates last year between the two sides.
Tesla leased the 30,000-square-foot building last year and has said it plans to open the dealership on Broad this summer. It still must apply for a dealer’s license with the state’s motor vehicle dealer board to open at the site.
A hearing is set in the case for Monday morning at 10 a.m. in Richmond Circuit Court.