Ask any of Tesla’s customers or fans what makes them so enthused about the California car brand, and the answer will almost always have something to do with the all-electric drive-train strategy or the inevitable replacement of gas cars with electric power. Actually, Tesla’s automotive technology is neither completely unique nor guaranteed to put an end to internal combustion (let alone support the firm’s ludicrous market valuation). What is revolutionary, however, is Elon Musk’s desire to build a retail network free from the franchise-dealer monopoly. And, despite some setbacks this week, he might just succeed.
By attacking the gatekeepers of automotive retail, Tesla is promising not just a unique sales and service experience for its well-off customers, but a more liberalized, competitive market for all car buyers. In this sense, Tesla does indeed hold the promise of a better — if not greener– future.
The dealers themselves, of course, are none too pleased. And they have one of the best-funded and most active political lobbies in the U.S., even securing for themselves an inexplicable exemption from Consumer Finance Protection Bureau oversight. Worse, Tesla is facing not just a federal-level battle with this implacable foe, but a state-by-state fight as well, with New Jersey and Texas becoming the latest to ban direct sales.