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Gov. McCrory takes Tesla for an elecrifying spin around the block

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Tesla's full-court-press campaign to kill a North Carolina bill that would ban the California company from selling its pricey electric cars here put Gov. Pat McCrory behind the wheel of the $100,000 super auto at lunchtime Monday.

Tesla lobbyists in recent weeks have met with more than a dozen lawmakers in a bid to block the legislation. They usually bring a Tesla Model S for special effect and a complementary test drive.

But putting McCrory in the cockpit of a Model S on Monday was an unplanned coup.

The lobbyists, from Raleigh's Brooks Pierce law firm, took their all-electric road show to John Skvarla, secretary of the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources.

Skvarla was so excited about the high-performance machine that he decided to drive it to the Governor's Mansion to show the chief executive himself.

"John came up knocking on the door," explained McCrory spokesman Rick Martinez.

Martinez said that McCrory "left the Capitol this afternoon for the Mansion for his lunch break, when John Skvarla showed up with a nice car."

Eager to oblige, McCrory hopped in for a ride, with a state trooper behind the wheel. Before long, McCrory and the trooper switched, giving the Governor a chance to guide the sleek vehicle around Raleigh.

It's not clear if the experience swayed McCrory's opinion of the legislation. He has not expressed a position, Martinez said.

The bill would prohibit online car sales by sales people who are not licensed as car dealers. If enacted into law, it would be the most restrictive policy in the nation as regards auto sales. Under Tesla's business model, customers buy the car online or by phone, then Tesla Rangers deliver the vehicle to customer's porte-cochère.

The bill sailed through the state Senate last month, with the backing of the influential N.C. Automobile Dealers Association. But it came to a skidding halt in the state House, where key Republicans have expressed reservations about the Tesla bill and admiration for the Tesla car.

The legislation has generated national attention -- and ridicule -- and when the bill is calendared for debate here, TV cameras are sure to follow.

Tesla CEO and co-founder Elon Musk, who previously founded PayPal, intends to travel to Raleigh to testify before the House Transportation Committee.

Professional race car driver Leilani Munter, a Cornelius resident named by Sports Illustrated as one of the world’s top 10 female racers, has also vowed to testify.

Tesla’s Model S luxury sports sedan is Motor Trend car of the year for 2013 and recently scored 99 out of 100 points in Consumer Reports. The basic model starts at a list price of $69,900 and boasts a driving range of more than 200 miles between charges.

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About the blogger

John Murawski has been a full-time newspaper reporter since 1991, with stints at Legal Times and The Chronicle of Philanthropy (both in Washington, DC), The Philadelphia Inquirer and The Palm Beach Post (in South Florida) before arriving at the N&O in December 2004. At the N&O he covers energy (nuclear, coal, renewable, efficiency), hydraulic fracturing (or "fracking"), public utilities and health care. His beat includes PSNC Energy, Piedmont Natural Gas, Duke Energy Progress, PowerSecure International, GlaxoSmithKline, Merck, Novo Nordisk, Pfizer, Biogen Idec and others. He has also contributed more than 30 book reviews on topics spanning botany, history, science and religion. You can reach him at 919-829-8932 or e-mail him.
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