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In Va., Tesla Motors has a showroom where it can’t make sales

It hasn’t been a smooth ride for Tesla Motors in Virginia.

Nearly two months ago, the electric vehicle manufacturer known for its six-figure price tags opened a gallery at Tysons Corner. Potential customers can check out the Model S, chat with employees and pick up a Tesla T-shirt or baseball cap.

But they can’t buy a car.

Virginia law prohibits car manufacturers from operating their own dealerships, partly to encourage competition and protect consumers. So the California-based company is using the Tysons Corner location as a showroom where employees are forbidden from discussing purchases.

The car manufacturer has petitioned Virginia to grant it an exemption. If granted, it could set a precedent for car manufacturers looking to sell their cars in the state without the middle man.

“This would be opening the door,” said George Hoffer, a transportation economics professor at the University of Richmond. “There would be other people, other manufacturers, especially from abroad, who would like to come in and use this business model.”

Tesla’s current model revolves around selling its products not through a dealer but directly to customers, usually online, according to Diarmuid O’Connell, Tesla’s vice president of business development.
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