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Natick selectmen grant license to Tesla cars

NATICK —

After more than a hour of debate over an electric car company’s operations, selectmen voted 4-1 Monday to grant a license to Tesla Motors MA to sell cars at a West Central Street property instead of at the Natick Mall.

Tesla Motors MA, a subsidiary of Tesla Motors Inc., has been running a gallery at Natick Mall since September but has been unable to sell its electric cars without a license. Company representatives told selectmen the company is leasing space at 251 West Central St. to conduct sales.

Town zoning regulations prohibit the company from running a salesroom at Natick Mall.

The board approved the license with the condition that the lease at 251 West Central St. is assigned from Tesla Motors to Tesla Motors MA.

Tesla Vice President George Blankenship said more than 76,000 people have been through the Natick Mall location since it opened in September, making Natick one of the best locations. Tesla representatives said they intend to keep the gallery at Natick Mall as well as the West Central Street location and the service center in Watertown.

“We are different and we’re trying to do something really, really great in Natick,” Blankenship said.

Tesla officials have said customers can look at the technology at the mall and have been referred to the company’s website if they want to purchase a car.

Richard Campbell, a lawyer for Tesla, said his client has met all requirements for the license including that Tesla Motors MA is an agent recognized by Tesla Motors Inc. and that there is a service facility in Watertown.

Scott Silverman, an attorney representing the Massachusetts State Automobile Dealers Association, argued thath the Watertown location is much farther than any other dealers’ service facility is from the salesroom.

The association and some dealers have sued Tesla in Norfolk Superior Court seeking to stop Tesla’s operation in Natick. A judge denied an injunction the dealers sought saying they do not have standing, but the suit is still pending

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