Does DC have car dealerships? (Spoiler alert: Yes)

Opponents of D.C. statehood argued their case in the U.S. House on Monday as Mayor Muriel Bowser and Council Chairman Phil Mendelson testified why the District should be the 51st state.

Republican lawmakers are overwhelmingly against District statehood. Many believe it would forever tilt the balance of the Senate in favor of Democrats and referred to it as a “power grab” during the hearing. For the most part, they framed their opposition to D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton’s statehood bill as being unconstitutional.

But there was a strange standout from Georgia Republican Rep. Jody Hice: D.C. should not be a state in part because it doesn’t have any car dealerships — which he later walked back.

The claim was at once not a determining factor in statehood eligibility (dealerships did not exist when the Constitution was written) and also quickly debunked by a quick Google search, though some dealerships, like JNJ, have closed.

You can also check D.C.’s DMV website for a list of active car dealerships.

According to Google Trends, searches for “dc car dealership” spiked the day of the hearing.

So WTOP reached out to some of them to confirm that they did, in fact, exist.

Tesla’s Downtown location exists and is open.

Rolling Wheels Motors on New Hampshire Avenue NW in Fort Totten also confirmed that they exist and sell cars.

The same goes for Capital Auto Auction DC on Brentwood Road in Northeast.

Ditto for Jimmy’s Auto on Bladensburg Road in Northeast, and so on.

But here’s where it gets complicated.

The overwhelming majority of dealerships in D.C. sell used cars, and a salesperson with Jimmy’s Auto said D.C. dealerships are being “pushed out” because the DMV doesn’t give them paper tags.

“There aren’t many of us left,” he said, adding that customers have to schedule an appointment with the DMV to get temporary plates. That process started before the Bowser administration.

Making matters worse, the D.C. DMV is extremely backlogged. Scheduling an appointment is tough or, according to some, “next to impossible.”

The salesperson said the need to make a DMV appointment is driving people to Virginia and Maryland dealerships, where they can leave the lot with paper tags.

“So, they’re making money, but we’re not,” he said.

WTOP has reached out to the mayor’s office and the District Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs for comment.

A DMV spokesperson directed WTOP to the mayor’s office for questions.

Will Vitka

William Vitka is a Digital Editor and reporter for WTOP.com. He's been in the news industry for over a decade. Before joining WTOP, he worked for CBS News, Stuff Magazine, The New York Post and wrote a variety of books—about a dozen of them, with more to come.

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