Remember that petition that circulated a year ago, asking the White House to intervene in the War of the Car Lots, and allow Tesla to sell its vehicles directly to consumers? An answer finally came this week and, as expected, it merely states that the federal government has no authority in the matter.
The official response, written by Dan Utech, Special Assistant to the President for Energy and Climate Change, reads, in part:
We’re excited about the next generation of transportation choices, including the kind of electric vehicles that Tesla and others have developed…but as you know, laws regulating auto sales are issues that have traditionally sat with lawmakers at the state level.
We believe in the goal of improving consumer choice for American families, including more vehicles that provide savings at the pump for consumers. However, we understand that pre-empting current state laws on direct-to-consumer auto sales would require an act of Congress.
The message goes on to give the Obama administration a pat on the back for the measures it’s taken to promote progress in the transportation sector, which have indeed been substantial, including increased fuel economy standards, loan guarantees and support for research.
Tesla was not impressed – the company criticized the White House for a delayed and timid response.
“Rather than seize an opportunity to promote innovation and support the first successful American car company to be started in more than a century, the White House issued a response that was even more timid than its rejection of a petition to begin construction of a Death Star,” said Tesla VP Diarmuid O’Connell. “Instead of showing the sort of leadership exhibited by senior officials at the Federal Trade Commission who declared their support for consumer freedom of choice, the White House merely passed the buck to Congress and trumpeted its advances in promoting vehicle efficiency. Given the economic and environmental principles at stake, we would have hoped for stronger leadership and more action.”
Several top officials from the Federal Trade Commission took Tesla’s side in a blog post in April, saying that the various state governments’ moves to restrict Tesla’s direct sales were “bad policy for a number of reasons.” A group of 70 economists and law professors and several politicians on both sides of the aisle have also made public statements in support of the new order.