Former New Mexico Cabinet secretary defends auto dealerships from Tesla

SANTA FE – A recently retired state Cabinet secretary who oversaw New Mexico’s first major foray into electric vehicles for government fleets has gone to work at a lobbying group for automotive dealerships as they safeguard state-authorized control over direct sales of new vehicles from incursions by electric-car maker Tesla and other potential rivals.

Ken Ortiz retired in June as secretary of the General Services Department. He has begun work as president of the New Mexico Automotive Dealers Association by publicly defending New Mexico’s ban on direct sales of motor vehicles and highlighting local employment provided by auto dealerships.

Tesla forged a route around the state’s direct-sales prohibition last month as it opened a store and repair shop on autonomous Native American land at Nambé Pueblo in northern New Mexico. It marked a new approach in Tesla’s yearslong fight to sell cars directly to consumers and cut dealerships out of the process.

The company led by business magnate Elon Musk can sell and service its vehicles freely in only about a dozen states.

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 a sales, service and delivery center near Santa Fe, N.M. Tesla has opened a store on tribal land in New Mexico, sidestepping car dealership laws that prohibit car companies from selling directly to customers.

In commentary delivered this week to news outlets, Ortiz asserted that new-car dealerships — and not direct-to-consumer manufacturers — are best equipped to deploy electric vehicles and speed the transition to cleaner transportation in response to climate change.

Contacted by phone, Ortiz said Tesla “is not really the issue.”

More:Tesla builds 1st store on tribal land to dodge New Mexico car law

Katherine E. Ackerman

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