After Trashing Tesla, Now Anti -Tech Right says it’s “Unfair Competition”

May 14, 2013

North Carolina put itself on the anti-science map not long ago by passing a law forbidding consideration of sea level rise in that state.

Now, the legislature is looking at legislation to brand some of the world’s most compelling new auto technology, Tesla’s electric Model S sedan, as “unfair competition” to conventional auto dealers.


From the state that brought you the nation’s first ban on climate science comes another legislative gem: a bill that would prohibit automakers from selling their cars in the state.

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.


In the first three months of 2013, more people bought Tesla Model S electric cars than equivalent (more or less) models from Mercedes, BMW, and Audi. Obviously, these aren’t very high-volume models, but still, not bad for a company that wasn’t making any cars at all a few years ago. It shows that Tesla’s strategy is working.

If you make a really good electric car – Consumer Reportscalled it the best car they’ve ever tested – you can easily go head-to-head with gasoline models and beat them. That’s important, because in some places (ie. big cities) cars don’t make much sense and we should make more efforts to improve walkability, bike lanes, transit, etc. But outside those big cities, people will be driving for a long time to come, and electric cars will make a huge difference, especially as our power grid becomes cleaner over time.

Slate again:

In its current form, North Carolina’s bill would be the harshest of a handful of anti-Tesla regulations around the country. In Texas, the company is fighting a law under which the employees of its “showroom” in Austin are not allowed to sell any vehicles, offer test drives, or even tell customers how much the car costs. But at least Texas still lets people buy the car online, which North Carolina’s law would prohibit.

Tesla’s O’Connell rejects the idea that laws prohibiting automakers from selling their cars are designed to protect consumers, as trade groups like the North Carolina dealers’ association claim. He says the franchise-dealer model might work fine for giant automakers, but not for a startup like Tesla—especially since Tesla’s products represent a challenge to the traditional auto industry on which dealerships rely. “How do you sell the future if your business depends on the present?” he asked.

Robert Glaser, president of the dealers association, told the News & Observer that the law prohibiting Tesla sales isn’t just about his industry’s self-interest. Pointing to the Tesla representatives at a recent hearing, he said, “You tell me they’re gonna support the little leagues and the YMCA?”

If that’s the real issue, then I may have some good news for all concerned: I asked O’Connell, and he assured me Tesla would be happy to support the little leagues and the YMCA if that’s what North Carolina requires in order to do business there. Problem solved! Right, Mr. Glaser?

11 Responses to “After Trashing Tesla, Now Anti -Tech Right says it’s “Unfair Competition””

  1. You know, as North Carolina teabag conservatives lose the Outer Banks to sea rise and their ankles are wet in Greenvile, they’d better outlaw hurricanes and tides because they are hoaxes too.

  2. It is ironic that people are so negative about an American success! Tesla is revolutionizing the car industry, and showing that it is possible be independent from oil – but that is not good enough? Elon Musk is too smart to be denier, and he knows his customers are smart, too.

    Tesla has been successful in getting their stores up and running in many states that try to exclude them.

    As high performance and sleek and sexy as the Model S is – it is about 2X as efficient as a Prius.

    Go Tesla, go!


  3. andrewfez Says:

    Anyone that would have owned stock in Tesla in April would have doubled their money as of today.

    Certainly this is very different than the free market propaganda that these guys wash the American public in, but consistent with big-gov protectionist schemes they all rely upon to avoid the same level of market risk as the little guys.

    Waiting for that 10K cut in Volt prices….

    • skeptictmac57 Says:

      It would have made a lot of sense for GM or Tesla to have given Rupert Murdoch a substantial amount of shares in their stock,so that he would have had a personal stake in how those companies fared.

  4. daryan12 Says:

    This won’t just effect Tesla, a number of UK & EU based manufacturer’s also sell directly to customers, I was over at JLR’s plant a few weeks ago and saw one of their cars going through the line destined for the US. Naturally they’ll kick up stink as such a law is essentially against trade rules.

    After the EU identifies a suitable export from North Carolina (hot air seems the be the current best export mind!) and slaps a punitive 20% tax on it I think they’ll reconsider!

  5. joffan7 Says:

    It is a sign of success that Tesla are starting to get protectionist reactions from their competitors. I think mostly they will be able to fend this off or get it overturned.

    I’ll register a protest about the graph (which I know came from elsewhere). I hate non-zero baselines, especially when unmarked.

  6. skeptictmac57 Says:

    I recently listened to an episode of Planet Money,from NPR that dealt with why the car buying experience,as bad as it is,has not changed much over the years. The answer seems to be that the National Automobile Dealers Association has institutionalized a protectionist set of state laws that shield car dealers from competition. These dealers wield substantial power in their states due to the fact that they contribute as much as 13 million dollars per each dealership to the state’s economy in sales tax. That kind of political economic power allows them to dictate to state legislators what ever sort of laws that they want in order to protect their franchises. Listen to the podcast here:

  7. Ian Orchard Says:

    Sounds as though Tesla and the others had better set up their own “franchised” outlets to market their products.

  8. […] the internal combustion engine was part of God' Plan for America, and cannot be touched. After Trashing Tesla, Now Anti -Tech Right says it’s “Unfair Competition” | Climat… Sign in or Register Now to […]

  9. daveburton Says:

    North Carolina did not “pass a law forbidding consideration of sea level rise in that state” or “ban climate science.” We passed a law requiring consideration of sea level measurements before imposing potentially ruinous regulations based on political science rather than geophysical science. But don’t take my word for it, read the law yourself:

    Click to access S151v3.pdf

    You need to stop believing every outrageous accusation you hear from the Climate Movement propaganda machine. They lie.

    As for Tesla, I don’t know whether the accusation is true or not, but I tried to find out, earlier today. I found what I think must be the bill, and I skimmed it, but I couldn’t find a provision banning Internet sales of cars.

    I think the bill must be SB-327, Clarify Motor Vehicle Licensing Law,. Can you find such a provision in it?

    If that’s the bill, it passed unanimously in the NC Senate, and is now in the NC House Transportation Committee, and if they give it a favorable report, it’ll go to the House Commerce and Job Development Committee.

    It wouldn’t surprise me if the regulation-happy Democrats were to try to prohibit auto sales that bypass dealerships, but I can’t imagine that 100% of the Senate Republicans would go along.

    • skeptictmac57 Says:

      Why did you link to SB 151 when it was HB 819 that Peter wrote about,and the one that was reported on throughout the media?

      We passed a law requiring consideration of sea level measurements before imposing potentially ruinous regulations based on political science rather than geophysical science.

      Yet there is this from Science Insider AAAS:

      “The climate researcher points to a recent U.S. Geological Survey study saying sea level along portions of the Atlantic Coast, from Cape Hatteras, North Carolina, to Boston, will rise three to four times faster than the rest of the globe.”

      I guess every finding of science that contradicts your narrative is automatically “political science”.

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