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Tesla showroom, first of its kind in CT, opens at Mohegan Sun

Mohegan Sun recently opened a Tesla Electric Vehicle Showroom which allows customers to directly buy vehicles from the EV manufacturer.
Courtesy of Tesla, Inc.
Mohegan Sun recently opened a Tesla Electric Vehicle Showroom which allows customers to directly buy vehicles from the EV manufacturer.

A showroom for Tesla electric vehicles has opened in Connecticut, circumventing a law some critics say is restricting the sale of EVs in the state.

Mohegan Sun announced Friday the opening of the Tesla Electric Vehicle Showroom, which allows customers to directly buy vehicles from the EV manufacturer.

Currently, state law prohibits manufacturers, including Tesla, from selling vehicles directly to consumers. Instead, manufacturers must sell vehicles through licensed car dealerships.

But the Mohegan EV sales space is unique.

That’s because Tesla’s shop is located on tribal land, where state car dealership laws don’t apply.

“Mohegan is a sovereign nation with its own laws and governing services,” Mohegan Sun spokesperson Cody Chapman said in an email.

The new arrangement means Connecticut customers looking to buy a Tesla will no longer need to drive to an out-of-state-dealership to do so. Instead, they can purchase and pick up their Tesla vehicles at the showroom, which is located in the Shops at Mohegan Sun.

Tesla’s shop at Mohegan Sun isn’t its first foray into sales on tribal land. The company began selling cars that way in New Mexico in 2021, according to a recent report from the Connecticut Office of Legislative Research. A similar arrangement is also in the works in New York.

“As a general matter, tribes retain the power of self-governance (sovereignty) over their members and their lands,” the OLR report states. “The history of [the] U.S. Supreme Court case law generally affirms tribal civil regulatory jurisdiction over nonmembers on tribal land, particularly those who enter into business relationships with tribes.”

Since 2015, Tesla has repeatedly tried to urge state lawmakers to pass legislation repealing Connecticut’s ban on direct sales. But car dealers and manufacturers who sell through dealerships have successfully resisted any sweeping reforms to the law. They say allowing direct sales could result in fewer jobs at dealerships.

Patrick Skahill is a reporter and digital editor at Connecticut Public. Prior to becoming a reporter, he was the founding producer of Connecticut Public Radio's The Colin McEnroe Show, which began in 2009. Patrick's reporting has appeared on NPR's Morning Edition, Here & Now, and All Things Considered. He has also reported for the Marketplace Morning Report. He can be reached at pskahill@ctpublic.org.