A White House petition asks the federal government to intervene in the ongoing war between Tesla Motors and trade associations representing auto dealers, by blocking states from requiring that cars be sold only by third-party dealers. The Obama administration promises to review and respond to any citizen petition that garners 100,000 signatures within a month.
The petition asks the administration to “allow Tesla Motors to sell directly to consumers in all 50 states.” It reads:
States should not be allowed to prevent Tesla Motors from selling cars directly to customers. The state legislators are trying to unfairly protect automobile dealers in their states from competition. Tesla is providing competition, which is good for consumers.
For the petition to be reviewed by President Obama it needs 100,000 signatures by July 5. As of this writing, it has 33,150. You can sign the petition here.
Texas has passed a law prohibiting Tesla from selling its EVs directly to buyers, and several other states are considering similar measures. As the war grinds on, Tesla seems to have won a couple of battles this week.
In North Carolina, a House committee “pulled the plug” on the state’s automobile dealers’ campaign to block Tesla sales in the state, according to the Raleigh News & Observer. “House leaders were cool to the proposal, which came to light just as Tesla was reporting quarterly profits and earning rave reviews for its Model S sedan. House Speaker Thom Tillis said good things about the Tesla sedan after he took it for a test drive, and Gov. Pat McCrory took a spin, too.” But Bob Glaser of the NC Automobile Dealers Association said Thursday that the group hasn’t given up on a separate bill targeting Tesla.
In New Hampshire, the legislature has passed a bill that guarantees Tesla the right to sell its vehicles directly, according to Automotive News. The bill does not specifically mention Tesla, but stipulates that manufacturers can sell vehicles directly if no other dealer is selling the same brand within the state. Tesla spokeswoman Shanna Hendriks said, “New Hampshire will be a great market for us as we expand on the East Coast, however we do not have any dates set for opening there at this time.”
We’re betting on Tesla to win this war in the end. Yes, state legislatures tend to be dominated by established interests and their campaign contributions, but their control is not absolute. Public opinion matters too, and public opinion is always going to be on the side of consumer choice versus government protection of an entrenched industry. The public is far more likely to root for an innovative startup that’s creating American manufacturing jobs than for auto dealers, who most car buyers probably don’t regard fondly. Furthermore, deep-pocketed Tesla is quite capable of hiring lobbyists of its own – and of taking lawmakers for test drives.