Last September, Tesla partnered with Nambé Pueblo to construct and open a sales and service facility for the electric car manufacturer.
Now, Santa Ana Pueblo is the latest New Mexico location for Tesla sales and service. Codenamed Project Frontier, the official announcement came with pomp and circumstance at an in-person event Oct. 7. The facility is expected to open in May 2023.
Congratulations to Santa Ana Pueblo for striking this deal with Tesla. We wish you much success.
But this development underscores a problem. You might notice that the only two Tesla facilities in New Mexico are on tribal land. That’s because New Mexico has long maintained a ban on direct-to-consumer vehicle sales.
As sovereign nations, pueblos are not subject to this onerously restrictive state law. The ability of Tesla to leverage tribal partnerships is of definite benefit to Santa Ana Pueblo, Nambé and others, and they are stepping up to fill a gap created by overly burdensome state governments. This brings dollars into the pueblos, which benefits Tesla, and thus benefits consumers directly by facilitating access to electric vehicle purchases.
Tesla previously attempted an entrance into the state in 2019 with the aid of favorable legislators, but was blocked when car dealer associations launched comprehensive campaigns against the effort.
The news of the new facility comes over a year after Elon Musk announced Tesla would expedite service center openings. While the negotiations with Santa Ana Pueblo were obviously fruitful, the antiquated regulations in place at the state level are prohibitive.
All this comes after Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s electric vehicle mandates. Ken Ortiz, president of the New Mexico Automotive Dealers Association, said “New Mexicans should have a choice in what vehicles they purchase based on their specific needs. We agree that the ozone issue is real, but it should not be addressed through mandates.”
If New Mexicans should have a choice, why did the New Mexico Automotive Dealers Association consistently defend the state’s ban on direct sales of motor vehicles?
Ortiz retired last year as a state cabinet secretary, where he oversaw New Mexico’s first major foray into electric vehicles for government fleets. He is still hard at work lobbying for automotive dealerships as they safeguard state-authorized monopolies over direct sales of new vehicles, protecting dealers from incursions by potential rivals, such as Tesla.
“This is just a start – and it’s a great start,” Santa Ana Gov. Joey Sanchez told the Albuquerque Journal, referring to the new partnership with Tesla.
It’s part of a trend that should continue. If New Mexico, its legislative body and Lujan Grisham refuse to address antiquated laws that patently inhibit positive business activity, tribal leadership has an incredible opportunity to step in. They are providing real solutions, whereas state government just puts up roadblocks as it cozies up to industry lobbyists.
Santa Ana Pueblo sees the benefits of working with such businesses as Tesla, making New Mexico leadership look pretty foolish in the process. I hope they continue to do so as a case study for cutting red tape.
Southwest Public Policy Institute is a research institute dedicated to improving the quality of life in the American Southwest by formulating, promoting and defending sound public policy solutions.