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White House petition for Tesla Motors to sell direct to consumers needs help

One of the more innovative strategies employed by Tesla Motors is its model of direct sales to consumers. Rather than relying on a network of independently owned and operated dealerships, Tesla deals directly with its customers, neatly side-stepping the traditional (at least in the US) car buying process. Tesla has faced powerful resistance in almost every state in the US from entrenched dealerships and their lobbying groups.
Enlarge / Inside a Tesla showroom.

In response to that resistance, a We the People petition has been started on the White House website to attempt to get the Obama administration to make policy on the matter and allow Tesla to sell to consumers without being encumbered by conflicting state regulations. The petition seems unlikely to pass, though; at this point, there are eight days left on the clock and it’s still short about 80,000 signatures from the 100k signature mark.

The dealership system in place in the US evolved as a way to preserve competition by ensuring car manufacturers couldn’t collude with each other and fix their pricing; in most states, laws are in place to help keep independent dealerships as a required stepping stone in the car buying process. However, as anyone who’s had to buy a car can attest, the dealerships themselves are actually the biggest obstacle standing between customers and vehicles. There isn’t anything that involves quite so much anguish and rage as buying a car from a dealership. No other type of purchase—not even buying a home—requires as much research and negotiation and strategy to finagle and haggle a good price. It is a profoundly consumer-hostile business model.


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