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Tesla opening store in Henrico Friday morning; McAuliffe says 'no question that they ought to be able to sell their cars here'
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Tesla opening store in Henrico Friday morning; McAuliffe says 'no question that they ought to be able to sell their cars here'

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The Richmond region’s first automobile dealership owned by electric car maker Tesla Motors Inc. will open to customers Friday at 8:30 a.m.

California-based Tesla, which has only one other store in Virginia, will sell and service its battery-powered cars at the new shop at 9850 W. Broad St. in western Henrico County. It also will sell the company’s solar roof panels and its Powerwall rechargeable home battery systems.

Tesla hosted an invitation-only grand opening event at the store on Wednesday evening, attended by Gov. Terry McAuliffe, other state and local officials, businesspeople and local owners of Tesla automobiles. About 300 people were invited.

“Obviously this store is a state-of-the-art facility for us,” said Brent Baldwin, general manager for Tesla’s central east region. “This will ensure customer experience at the highest level. That is what Tesla is known for.”

The store will employ a staff of about 25, and Tesla officials said employment could grow depending on local demand.

Tesla is opening the store despite facing a legal challenge from the Virginia Automobile Dealers Association. The trade group, which represents independent dealers in the state, has gone to court to challenge Virginia DMV Commissioner Richard D. Holcomb’s ruling last year that Tesla could operate its own dealership in the Richmond area.

The dealers association argues that Tesla should be required to sell its cars through independent dealers, as other automobile manufacturers do, under a state law that prohibits manufacturers from owning dealerships in most circumstances.

Tesla, which only sells its cars online and directly to consumers, says its business model would make it impossible for independent dealers to sell the cars profitably.

The company said it was issued a dealers license this week by the Virginia Motor Vehicle Dealer Board.

Speaking to the crowd at the opening event, McAuliffe made it clear where he stands on the issue.

“When this first came to me, there was no question that they ought to be able to sell their cars here,” McAuliffe said. “This is competition. It’s important for our environment. It reduces the carbon emissions, which is something that we all care about here in Virginia.”

He called Tesla cars “clean technology.”

“This is part of what I call the new, 21st century Virginia economy,” he said.

The showroom has the company’s Model S and Model X cars on display.

Bill Chen, a local Tesla owner who attended the event, said having a nearby store will be a “significant improvement” over driving two hours to Northern Virginia to have service work done on his car.

Tesla officials at the event said the service department at the store is designed to handle up to 100 cars a day.

Tesla opened its only other Virginia store near Tysons Corner in February 2015. That store opened only after the company reached a legal agreement with the DMV and the Virginia Automobile Dealers Association.

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