The proposal, which the Raleigh News & Observer reports was unanimously approved by the state’s Senate Commerce Committee on Thursday, would apply to all car manufacturers, but the intended target is clear. It’s aimed at Tesla, the only U.S. automaker whose business model relies on selling cars directly to consumers, rather than through a network of third-party dealerships.
The bill is being pushed by the North Carolina Automobile Dealers Association, a trade group representing the state’s franchised dealerships. Its sponsor is state Sen. Tom Apodaca, a Republican from Henderson, who has said the goal is to prevent unfair competition between manufacturers and dealers. What makes it “unfair competition” as opposed to plain-old “competition”—something Republicans are typically inclined to favor—is not entirely clear. After all, North Carolina doesn’t seem to have a problem with Apple selling its computers online or via its own Apple Stores.
Still, it’s easy to understand why some car dealers might feel a little threatened: Tesla’s Model S outsold the Mercedes S-Class, BMW 7 Series, and Audi A8 last quarter without any help from them. If its business model were to catch on, consumers might find that they don’t need the middle-men as much as they thought.
Incidentally—not that he would be in any way swayed by this—I couldn’t help but notice that Apodaca received $8,000 in campaign contributions from the North Carolina Automobile Dealers Association last year, the maximum amount allowed by state law. I’ve reached out to the senator for further comment and will update this post if he replies.
Tesla's turning some heads in the RTP area, where they expect to have a showroom soon. They're probably doing well in liberal Asheville, home of my alma mater. The real issue of course is by taking dealers out of the picture, Tesla's business model is a direct threat to the dealership empires in the state, and they want Tesla gone.
Besides, NC Republicans hate electric cars or anything remotely environmentally friendly, so it's a double win for them. I fully expect this bill to pass and Gov. Pat McCrory to sign it.
Free markets are for suckers, after all. So much nicer to rig the game.