A fully loaded Tesla Model S can drive more than 250 miles on a single charge, its electric motor capable of hitting 60 mph in about three seconds. The base model starts at $70,000, but hey — you never have to buy gas for it. It’s the top-selling plug-in electric vehicle in the United States and China, and much of Europe.
But in North Carolina, the Tesla is regarded in the same way as drugs: Buying is one thing, and selling quite another.
Founder Elon Musk has created a thoroughly modern infrastructure around his thoroughly modern vehicle — anyone can buy a Tesla through the website, but this is a vertically aligned company, meaning that they bypass the dealer system and sell directly to consumers, keeping that $70,000 price tag in check.
A lot of states — mostly ones where automotive dealers had organized a lobby — put up barriers to Tesla’s sales model, requiring by law for all automotive sales to be conducted through dealers. The NC General Assembly made a play like that in 2013, but it got tangled up in process. As a result, the law is sort of muddy — direct auto sales are not banned outright, but they seem to be sort of frowned upon — and Raleigh got its first Tesla store later that same year.[pullquote]It’s like an Apple store where you can’t buy anything.[/pullquote]
Then the short commute times and high credit scores of Charlotte necessitated a second dealership, but this one was protested by four area auto dealers. In the ensuing hearing by the DMV, Charlotte’s Tesla store was downgraded to a showroom, where prospective buyers can check out the latest models and then get on their laptops or head to the Raleigh store to buy one.
It’s like an Apple store where you can’t buy anything.
This is as fine an example as any of the aversion to business this legislature has embraced since the GOP took over six years ago, and also its corruption — the DMV hearing officer Larry Green recommended that Tesla franchises be awarded to three of the four who protested.
Like so many of the laws passed here since 2010, this one — vague as it is — may be challenged in federal court: Musk is threatening a lawsuit against Michigan and any other states that won’t allow his business to operate.
And it also neatly illustrates how, like the Tesla itself, technology is advancing at such a fast pace that the law cannot keep up.