Connecticut dealership group sues to prevent Tesla from opening showroom and service center

A Connecticut dealership group is suing to stop a Tesla service center and showroom from going up in the region.

Hoffman Auto Group — which is listed in two lawsuits as Jetobra Inc. — wants a Hartford Superior Court judge to overrule the town’s decision that would let the service center and showroom be built, according to a report from the Hartford Courant.

The matter of Tesla operating in the state is contentious. The electric vehicle maker is pushing for changes to state laws that would allow it to sell vehicles directly to consumers.

Hoffman says in two complaints that allowing a Tesla brick-and-mortar goes against Connecticut state laws that prevent automakers from skipping franchised dealerships to sell directly to buyers.

Hoffman said in a statement to the Hartford Courant that it was committed to defending “Connecticut’s pro-consumer franchise system.” Tesla’s proposed part showroom, part service center would strip consumer protections from vehicle buyers, the dealership group said.

A former Gengras Motor Cars dealership in East Hartford would be redeveloped into the Tesla service center and showroom. The East Hartford Planning and Zoning Commission approved a special-use permit and site plan application for it, but Hoffman is disputing the legality of that.

A now-dissolved development company called Insite Development Services is also listed as a defendant in both suits. One complaint says the entity in early March applied for a site plan modification and special-use permit for an “electric car showroom and service center” to be owned and operated by Tesla.

But Insite was involuntarily dissolved by the secretary of state of Illinois in mid-March, according to that suit. The entity, acting on behalf of Tesla, did not have standing to pursue the application at the time of an April 14 hearing on it, the suit claims.

The suits also allege the Planning and Zoning Commission did not give proper public notice about the zoning sections that are part of the site plan application and special-use permit.

Hoffman is seeking a temporary injunction to prevent Tesla from indirectly or directly selling vehicles in Connecticut and a declaratory judgement on whether Tesla can operate the facility under state law given its status as a manufacturer.

Hoffman also appears to be seeking more than $15,000 in damages and attorneys’ fees.

Richard Weinstein, the attorney who filed the lawsuit on behalf of Hoffman Auto Group, did not respond to an inquiry by the time of publication.

Neither did Gengras Motor Cars. Per the Hartford Courant, E. Clayton Gengras struck a deal with Tesla to redevelop the building but still opposes legislative changes that would let Tesla sell cars separately from Connecticut dealerships.

Automotive News has also reached out to East Hartford town planning officials for comment.

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