Breaking from decades of car-buying tradition, Tesla Motors sells its cars direct to customers rather than through a third-party franchised dealer. As a consequence, it is the sworn enemy of auto dealers and auto dealer associations across the U.S.
Powerful, wealthy and keen to protect their interests, many auto dealer associations in various states have managed to push through protectionist measures through the legislative process. Designed to stop Tesla from selling direct to customers, legislation in states like Texas and Arizona make it impossible for Tesla to set up mall-based shops where customers can come in and test-drive a car.
Yet on Friday, Tesla Motors opened a brand-new, 2,200 square-foot location in Dallas, Texas, joining two other Texas-based Tesla Galleries already experiencing a high volume of visitors. While Tesla can’t use its stores to discuss pricing of any Tesla cars, arrange test drives or even offer technical advice for existing owners, it can discuss the technology of electric vehicles in general.
They are, essentially, permanent electric car information and education centres, owned and operated by Tesla Motors but designed to promote electric cars in general, something not prohibited by law.
Tesla’s approach seems to be working, too, with nearly 2,000 Teslas registered to customers within Texas.
As we’ve explained before, those who want to buy a Tesla in a state where direct-to-customer sales are banned don’t have it exactly easy, making those 2,000 Texan Teslas even more special.
In Texas, for example, potential Texas owners have to travel out of state to California to purchase their car, or make an order online and travel out of state to pick it up. They then have to register their car in the state of California on a temporary license, before driving it back to Texas and re-registering it within a ninety-day window.
Once back in Texas, owners can’t talk directly to a mechanic, and any problems with the car must be direct through Tesla HQ in California. While service centres exist in some form, they are not allowed to display the Tesla logo and cannot advertise that they do Tesla work, service, or warranty repairs.
Yet those 2,000 cars — admittedly in one of the largest states by area in the union — proves that those who really want a Tesla will go to great lengths to buy one. Tesla opening a third gallery proves that those who visit the galleries — while they may be frustrated about not being able to find out about a Tesla — are making the trip to find out electric cars in general. And if we had to guess, they’re visiting the low-pressure, no hard-sell environment of a Tesla gallery in preference to the traditional hard sell world of car dealerships.
The whole thing has auto dealers scared and playing defensively to the point that the National Auto Dealers Association has just launched an entire pro-dealer ad campaign designed to scare consumers away from Tesla and its business model. The website, called “Get The Facts,” even has its own animated film short to try and push the message home.
Who’s winning? The Californian automaker technically banned from selling direct to customers in a state with nearly 2,000 registered users and a third, recently-opened gallery — or the powerful auto dealer association spending millions of dollars on lobbying efforts and animated ad campaigns?
You decide — and leave your thoughts in the Comments below.
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