Contacted by phone, Ortiz said Tesla “isn’t really the problem.”

He added, “We just think that with the existing franchise law, outside of sovereign countries, the dealers are there for a reason. We are anchored in local communities, we contribute to state taxes, with the payroll.

Heather Ferguson, executive director of government accountability group Common Cause New Mexico, said Ortiz’s rapid transition from cabinet secretary to industry spokesperson smacked of crony capitalism.

“The perception this creates, in the wake of the Tesla deal, is concerning,” said Ferguson. “Each of these things shakes the state’s national reputation as to whether companies can come in and get a fair shake. It hurts our economy. “

Proposals to allow direct sales of vehicles without a dealer were rejected by the state legislature as late as 2019.

New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham said Thursday through a spokesperson that she would support reforms to the state’s legal ban on the direct sale of new vehicles if initiated and approved by the legislature.

Ortiz has earned a reputation as a trusted and competent public administrator in state government under the leadership of elected Democratic and Republican leaders, with roles ranging from director of the motor vehicles division to secretary of the state labor agency.


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