Tesla: Poll Proves Public Support of Direct Sales of Electric Cars

By · April 23, 2013

Image 01

A Tesla Store

Tesla Motors is now in an outright dogfight with the Automobile Dealers Association. The A.D.A. maintains that it must hold the power over the venue of car sales, while Tesla says it has the best model for handling sales and service of electric cars.

The company is now lobbying in Texas for a law granting a limited exemption for direct car sales. To bolster its case, Tesla is pointing to a poll on the Austin Business Journal website showing strong support for the exemption—86 percent are in support with 1773 votes cast.

In a press release issued yesterday, Tesla chief executive Elon Musk said the survey confirms that Texans want to preserve free enterprise. “For the Auto Dealer Association to claim that restricting competition is in the best interests of the public is wrong and defies obvious common sense,” he wrote. “We hope that legislators will consider the overwhelming support shown in this poll and vote yes on House Bill 3351/Senate Bill 1659, which would allow manufacturers of electric cars to sell directly to consumers in Texas. This amendment takes care to ensure that the long held franchise rights of auto dealers to sell their existing brands are still protected, which was the original intention of the law.”

Unfortunately, using the unscientific poll makes Tesla’s case look weak. It’s very easy to cast multiple votes in the poll, making it nearly useless.

Meanwhile, a petition on the whitehouse.gov website describes the prohibition of direct manufacturer auto sales as having a negative impact on free enterprise. The petition calls for the federal government "to step in and protect the consumer's choice to a free market trade," and describes the state laws as "antiquated" in this age when everyone uses the Internet to make informed decisions about automobile purchases without needing a car dealership to hold our hands and walk us through the car buying process.

Tesla is also playing the jobs card. The company claims that passage of the exemption would mean new jobs in Texas, thanks to the stores and service centers the company would open. In addition, Tesla is promising that Texas would be "a leading candidate for the location of a future Tesla auto manufacturing plant."

Really? Tesla is going to open a new plant in Texas while its current facility, the former NUMMI plant in Fremont, Calif., has vast amounts of unutilized space. When operated by Toyota and General Motors, NUMMI manufactured as many as 450,000 cars a year. Tesla is only making 20,000 cars per year in that factory, and Musk has said several times that Tesla has plenty of room to expand manufacturing.

Tesla’s arguments, promises and polls don’t always make sense. Its willingness to use any scrap of evidence reflects the company's “by any means necessary” strategy. Tesla will continue to fight hard to change laws so that it can operate the way it sees fit (in the name of supporting the growth of electric cars). And that could mean elevating its battle from the state level to the feds. "If we're seeing nonstop battles at the state level,” said Musk, “rather than fight 20 different state battles, I'd rather fight one federal battle."

New to EVs? Start here

  1. Seven Things To Know About Buying a Plug-In Car
    A few simple tips before you visit the dealership.
  2. Incentives for Plug-in Hybrids and Electric Cars
    Take advantage of credits and rebates to reduce EV costs.
  3. Buying Your First Home EV Charger
    You'll want a home charger. Here's how to buy the right one.