Wink, wink: New Mexico now has a Tesla sales, service and delivery center for its electric cars — even though state law prohibits auto manufacturers from selling directly to customers.

The outlet, soon to be at the new Tesla Center at Nambe Falls Travel Center in a former casino off U.S. 84/285, mirrors every purpose of a car dealership. You can buy a vehicle, drive it home and have it serviced.

The announcement, made at a ribbon-cutting ceremony Thursday attended by U.S. Sens. Martin Heinrich and Ben Ray Luján, was ballyhooed as the first agreement of its kind between the company and a sovereign Native entity — a fact not lost on Nambe Pueblo Gov. Phillip Perez. “It was a cooperative effort between Tesla and the pueblo,” said Perez, who added negotiations took place about a year ago. “It didn’t take long to come to terms.

“We are doing our part to protect Mother Earth,” he said. “We are proud to be the first tribe to have Tesla on Indian lands. This is really great that we are able to pave the way for New Mexico with renewable energy.”

Tesla does not franchise its sales, service and delivery centers as dealerships, which are company-owned. But Nambe Pueblo is not beholden to state restrictions against Tesla’s sales and service presence.

The Tesla center is near the Hilton Santa Fe Buffalo Thunder casino and resort on land Nambe Pueblo obtained from neighboring Pojoaque Pueblo along the highway. After years of planning, the small Nambe Falls Casino opened in February 2016 next to a gas station and convenience store the pueblo developed. While the travel center has continued operating, the short-lived casino venture closed in September 2017.

Tesla has only 65 sales and service centers in 24 states, according to the company’s website. Ten states, including New Mexico and Texas, ban direct sales and others limit the number of stores.

New Mexico has 1,846 registered Teslas, with 361 in Santa Fe County, according to the New Mexico Taxation & Revenue Department. The first Tesla arrived in New Mexico in 2012.

“It changes everything for owners,” said Brian Dear, founder and president of the Tesla Owners Club of New Mexico, which he founded in 2015 to bring a Tesla sales, service and delivery center to New Mexico.

“It going to help improve electric vehicle sales,” Dear said. “People can go and get test drives, which has never happened here. It’s a gigantic thing for New Mexico. It’s such a significant milestone.”

Until now, local Tesla owners had to get their car to Colorado Springs, Colo.; El Paso; or Arizona for service, or have Tesla send a technician to their homes. Cars either had to be shipped to a buyer or picked up out of state.

“The comparison up until now is to get your car fixed, you had to think of hotel reservations and possibly a multiday stay,” said Dear. “You didn’t get a reservation for Thursday or Friday because they may not get to your car and then you would have to stay into the next week.”

Santa Fe residents Melanie and Josh Vigil had to take their Tesla Model Y Performance to El Paso when it broke down because the company required it to go to the nearest repair facility.

“It’s just convenient” to have a service center nearby, she said.

The Tesla center has two service bays, a wash bay and a “gallery” with a single car. Potential buyers will be able to “demo drive” a vehicle. There’s isn’t a dedicated sales office but sales can be done on-site.

Most Teslas are sold online.

Luján, raised in the area, lauded the move.

“I had the honor of growing up with [pueblo] members who made this happen,” Luján said. “This is what happens when great minds come together.”

As electric-powered vehicles gain a foothold in the U.S., Heinrich said he has pushed for funding in an infrastructure package in the Senate to build out electric car charging stations, especially in underserved states.

“This is a really positive development,” Heinrich said.

In 2019, Sen. Jerry Ortiz y Pino, D-Albuquerque, sponsored the so-called Tesla Bill, which would have allowed nonfranchised car manufacturers to sell and service their vehicles in New Mexico.

Ortiz y Pino said the state’s auto dealers “absolutely opposed” the legislation. Because car manufacturers can only sell their automobiles through franchises in New Mexico, car dealerships have become incredibly valuable, he said.

“These are licenses to print money,” he said. “If you have the Ford dealership in Santa Fe or Albuquerque or Las Cruces, you’re guaranteed to have a nice living because [customers] have to come to you; they can’t go anywhere else. It’s not exactly a monopoly because there could be two dealerships in one community, but they limit the franchises so that they maintain highly profitable relationships with their franchisors.”

Tesla’s distribution model, which eliminates franchises, caused concern for traditional dealerships, said Ortiz y Pino, whose bill didn’t get out of committee.

“The local dealers weren’t keen to have Tesla come in because they don’t make much money on the sale of cars,” Ortiz y Pino said. “They make their money on the guaranteed warranties and the servicing that has to be done through them. That’s where the real profitability of the dealership comes.”

Ortiz y Pino said he was happy to hear Tesla had found a way to do business in New Mexico by partnering with a sovereign pueblo. “It’s a clever idea,” he said. “I think they found a way around it.”

Correction: This story has been amended to reflect the following correction. A previous version of this story included the incorrect date when Brian Dear founded the Tesla Owners Club of New Mexico. The club was founded in 2015.

(43) comments

BW Per

As someone who understands Capitalism and Tesla quite well, I'm certainly pleased to see this happen.

I've never owned a Corvette, but my first car was a Chevrolet and I remeber it dearly. I almost bought a new Toyota Tacoma once, or at least I wanted to. That experience actually ended with the dealership refusing to not only meet my price but also refuse to give me my ID and/or keys back. They finally did after I told them I was going to call the police.

I've only bought one new car, and it was a Tesla. I helped my Dad get his Tesla as well. Tesla isn't perfect but as someone who has done durability testing for multiple auto manufacturers, Tesla offers an unsurpassed electric spaceship-like experience.

Perhaps some people, like Mr. Johnson don't like what Tesla offers right now but my friends who spent their entire careers at (the old) GM would be happy to tell Mike, and anyone else, about how much they enjoy their Tesla Model Y.

Mike Johnson

Yes, I have some friends who own them and they are very happy, and their devotion seems to border on a cult-like status for the car and especially Musk. I'm not into hero worshipping, so I don't understand it all. What I see is a 4 door sedan or SUV with an electric motor that has styling that is not attractive to me at all. Of course as a long -time Corvette owner I am used to a certain design style in my cars, and Tesla doesn't have that, nor does any electric car. If an electric car ever has styling and a reasonable price (Model S is from $80K to $119K, and Model Y $60K+, far too high for a sedan or SUV), I might consider it, but since I do mostly long distance trips through the back roads of America, places with lots of gas stations but next to no SuperCharger or any EV charging stations, I don't feel electric cars are ready for prime time in America.

Richard Reinders


Richard Irell

Great news for Tesla owners and an economic boost for the Pueblo.

NM loses out on a lot of GRT revenue by enriching the dealer franchisees.

The NM auto dealer laws are a travesty.

Khal Spencer

Good for Tesla and the Pueblo!

Richard Reinders

Now we have to figure out how to collect a road tax from EV, they shirk their civic duty to share the cost of road maintenance. I think the average gas vehicle pays around $600.00 a year in gas state and federal tax based at .50 tax per gallon and 15 mile per gallon average and 15,000 miles a year so maybe add this to their registration fee.

Richard Irell

Shirking implies an action and/or intent, so EV owners are not shirking anything.

But they should be taxed at a rate comensurate with ICE vehicles although that will be difficult without an annual odometer check.

James Martinez

whatever it takes! that state law is antiquated

Mike Johnson

So you would really prefer that GM, Ford, etc. sold directly to customers and your only choice to buy one and have it serviced was at their manufacturer owned store, service center, or online, a total monopoly? Wow! That would really raise the price of cars and service and eliminate all competition......

Khal Spencer

I would agree 100% Mike, as I don't like the car companies having a monopoly, but thing is, no one *has* to buy a Tesla and if the prices or terms of service suck, they hopefully will find themselves circling the bowl.

Meanwhile, I'll stick with the two Subarus in the driveway and the hopelessly overpowered motorcycle in the garage. They are paid for and get fine gas mileage. And its still far easier to find a gas station than a place to plug in a car on a long trip. Not to mention, it takes me minutes, rather than hours, to fill up the energy supply compartment (otherwise known as a gas tank).

Mike Johnson

Words of wisdom Khal, very rare in today's Hollywood trendy world......[thumbup]

Robert Gillis

I am 87 and I own a Tesla and it is the best car I have ever owned. I didn’t have to deal with the dealership to be hassled over the price and additional features I wanted. I just went to Tesla’s website and selected the model and features and placed my order. No pressure at all. Nice feeling. I was notified that my car would be delivered to me in four weeks, and there was no shipping charge. I installed a charger at home and charge my car overnight when needed. When I want to go someplace the next day, I have a 322-mile range to my car. Maintenance is close to zero since there is no engine, no transmission, and no exhaust system. Tesla says, on average, their cars will last about a million miles before they need to be replaced. The car is very comfortable and drives like a high-end sports car. What I really enjoy is driving past gas stations and garages since I don’t have to pay for $3 plus for gas, or go in for oil changes, fanbelts, and a bunch of other things. Did I mention how cheap it is to drive a Tesla? When I rarely charge my car at a Tesla Supercharger, my cost is mostly under $10 and when I charge my car at home it is about half that price. Some of you may not like electric cars or the by passing of dealerships, but I think you can not stop what is happening. This is the future.

Khal Spencer

The cars should last indefinitely with a modicum of maintenance, i.e., tires, wheel bearings and other spinning parts. How long till the battery goes south and how much does a replacement cost? This link says up to 500,000 miles with replacement costs in the 3k to 7k range. That's actually dirt cheap compared to the amount of gasoline burned in 500k miles (My Impreza gets about 35-39 mpg on the highway, so doing the math on 500k miles). 13.5 k gallons is a lot of money.

So when those Tesla super-duper charging stations are as common as gas stations, this sounds like a very nice idea. After 300 miles, I'm ready for a break so as long as the charging station has human as well as vehicle amenities, it would be a nice way to travel.

Richard Irell

Ford, GM, Dodge, Subaru, Toyota, Honda, Nissan, Kia, Hyundai, VW, Fiat. etc.

It would hardly be a monopoly.

Michelle Rudy

This is good news. It's not so much about the opportunity to buy a Tesla as it is about the opportunity to buy any EV and have a place, almost nearby, to recharge.

John Cook

Our Governor was scheduled to appear at the opening along with both United States Senators. Then the NM Auto Dealers Association cracked the whip. She did not appear. The Senators did.

Mike Johnson

Wow! So Tesla wants to be known as the company who uses Native Americans to evade state law? Not surprising from a charlatan like Musk, anything for a buck.

John Cook

A state law designed to stop competition and stop consumer choice. A law designed to make a buck for the NM Auto Dealers' Association. Tesla has the smarts to use federal law. Bravo for them.

Mike Johnson

I don't think you understand capitalism, When a manufacturer has sole control of all sales, service, etc., you cannot negotiate prices, service terms, etc. When that manufacturer has to allow numerous dealers to sell the very same items, the dealers can compete and prices to the consumer go down from what a monopoly manufacturer would allow. Service also improves as you have a choice of who to buy from and have your car serviced from other places. You must work in government.

Dan Chase

I think what’s missed is that it’s the consumers choice on whether to buy and what to buy. If nobody buys a Tesla because they are too expensive the they would leave NM but don’t fault Tesla for bringing that choice to NM. As mush as dealers over price their cars and under value trade ins this is just another option for consumers…whats shady is that we have a law that benefits car dealers and doesn’t allow anyone else too sell direct.

Mike Johnson

Mr, Chase, I have bought many cars in my lifetime, and have always been able to have my choice of a car at my price by shopping around at dealers and pitting them against each other for price and service, that is called capitalism. I was interested in a Tesla not long ago, went to their shop in Denver, asked the price, they said X, I said how about Y? They said "no, it is X to everyone there is no negotiation and you can't buy it anywhere but from me here or online, which has the same price, so take it or leave it." I left it, that is not capitalism, that is a monopoly for one make of car, which doesn't exist with any other make of car, so what is great about this Tesla model?

Lee Karalis

Mr. Johnson, Tesla is not a monopoly; it's not the only car or electric car available. It's a single car manufacturer that sets its price and doesn't negotiate. There are many high-end products available that don't negotiate price with consumers and even prevent outlets from offering deals on their products. If you don't like that, you are free to buy another product.

Mike Johnson

Mr. Karalis, cars are a commodity, especially 4 door sedans that have nothing special about them, like a Tesla. It is not unique or special enough, IMO, to command a huge price that is non-negotiable and set in stone. I have never paid full MSRP on any car, and the way Tesla sells their is just ridiculous, IMO. No wonder they are so small and not very profitable over the last 5 years.

Robert Gillis

Mr. Johnson. Tesla not profitable???? Are you kidding??? They are making so much profit they have built a new factory in Shanghai, China last year and two new factories are being built in Austen, TX and Berlin, Germany that will come online by the end of this year. Tesla is also considering building more factories, possibly in India and or England. They can’t build cars fast enough to meet their demand. If you were to order a Tesla now you would have to wait until next year for delivery.

Robert Gillis

Sorry Mr. Johnson. My comment below is commenting on a comment you made below.

Mike Johnson

Mr. Gillis:

Richard Rubin

I have never seen a used Tesla for sale at a car dealership. They must have Tesla because the used car dealers are not able to gouge on extended warranties, GAP "coverage", and overpriced financing.

Nathan Hjelm

Nothing special about them. Compared to any ICE I have ever driven the Model 3 is a dream. I didn't know a cat could handle as well as this car does. The throttle response is instantaneous and it hugs the road. Try one and you will see that a Corvette does not even come close.

Mike Johnson

Mr. Hjelm.....seriously????[lol][lol][lol][lol][lol][lol][lol][lol][lol][lol][lol][lol]

Nathan Hjelm

Yes, seriously. Have you even been behind the wheel of any Tesla? I doubt it given your responses on this forum. Why don't you go online and schedule a test drive of the Model 3. It will likely be the dual-motor long-range model as I don't think they have the performance available for a test drive. You won't be able to take it on any of the twistees but you will be able get a basic idea of what it is like to drive one. The Model 3 LR has a 0-60 of 4.8s and is the slowest model. The Model 3P has a 0-60 of 3.1. Both vehicles will embarrass a Corvette on the 0-30.

Once you have test driven one come back because then you will at least know more than nothing about what you are talking about. I have driven many ICEs so I have a good frame of reference to compare.

Mike Johnson

Mr Hjelm, I have test driven a Tesla, after I almost puked from the cheap, tacky, Japanese style design, the acceleration is like a golf cart, fast at first and then of course the nature of an electric motor without any transmission takes over, all torque on starting and then it flat lines. My Corvette has a 0-60 of 2.7 seconds, and has a top speed of over 210 MPH, as I did at the Texas Mile. Go look at the Ring and Texas Mile performance of any won't find them because they are 4 door sedans for around town driving, not sports cars with any class, stop hallucinating.

Mike Johnson

Mr Hjelm, I have test driven a Tesla, after I almost puked from the cheap, tacky, Japanese style design, the acceleration is like a golf cart, fast at first and then of course the nature of an electric motor without any transmission takes over, all torque on starting and then it flat lines. My Corvette has a 0-60 of 2.7 seconds, and has a top speed of over 210 MPH, as I did at the Texas Mile. Go look at the Ring and Texas Mile performance of any won't find them because they are 4 door sedans for around town driving, not sports cars with any class, stop hallucinating.

Nathan Hjelm

Woah, don't get so riled up. I know it is tough to accept that a 4-door sedan that wasn't even designed to be a sports car and is cheaper ($56k vs $68k) than your recent-model Corvette offers similar performance characteristics (within reasonable ranges-- 210mph is 2.5x the fastest speed limit in the US) to your specialized sports car. The 0-60 is 3.1 vs 2.85 . The 0-100 is 8.2 (vs 7.6). The Model 3P is also more than 5x as energy efficient.

I find the Model 3/Y to be clean and classy. I have no interest in judging your taste so don't knock mine.

Mike Johnson

OK Mr. Hjelm, I can agree with you that we should all have a choice to satisfy our own tastes, and I would not criticize anyone's taste in cars if it were not for the fact that the left wing politicians are moving us all toward your taste and away from mine. I don't want the government defining what I can buy, do you? That is my problem with the trend I see with Teslas, the taxpayers are required to subsidize your taste, and punish mine, and that is not the America I want to live in.

Lupe Molina

Pot meet kettle. Didn't your industry destroy public lands for decades and garner tax credits on the backs of taxpayers? I'm no fan of Musk but this exploitation pales in comparison.

rodney carswell

Lupe, Mike likes to claim that oil and gas never got tax benefits from the gov't (taxpayers).

Mike Johnson

That is not true. Of course the petroleum industry got many favorable tax treatment policies, but none of them, except % depletion, was any different than any other capital intensive industry received. Look it up. The good news for us tax payers is that the Tesla tax credits for people purchasing one of their cars is gone now.

Dan Lewis

Nonsense. I'm surprised you aren't raging about a bad, overreaching state law instead.

Nathan Hjelm

The state law is unconstitutional. It abridges or right to free association. I never want to deal with a dealership again. They are useless middlemen who add cost with no value. Buying from Tesla is a breath of fresh air vs all the New Mexico dealers I have used. The absolute worst was American Toyota. Sandia BMW was better but had the same general issues when it came to finally purchasing. Do you want this useless add on, how about this one, we are almost done. Total nightmare. The Honda dealer in Albuquerque wasn't much better than American Toyota. Service center was a joke.

Barry Rabkin

This is excellent news ! Now with the existence of this service center, I'll consider buying a Tesla for my next vehicle.

Jake Greene

It is excellent news. We are selling our Bolt back to GM and had planned to replace it with another, newer Bolt. Now, we're rethinking . . .

Robert Gillis

Smart move Mr. Rabkin 😉

Dietrich Ginocchio

>"Brian Dear, founder and president of the Tesla Owners Club of New Mexico, which he founded in 2005"

A small correction: this year should be 2015.

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