I find this topic fascinating – the Texas State Government will not allow Tesla to open up a dealer network in their State. Therefore it is not possible to buy one of their cars anywhere in Texas!
The Texan Governor, Greg Abbott has been quoted as saying that “… Tesla shouldn’t expect to open up any dealers any time soon.”
Tesla has created several “galleries” in major cities around the State to enable prospective buyers to view the cars however they are not allowed to test drive them or discuss pricing – presumably they are directed to the web site where they can purchase the car or they can buy from another State and have the car shipped to them. Oddly that means that they can register them locally – and 3,000 owners have done just that.
Tesla also has four maintenance centres in Texas to enable owners to get their cars serviced and the company is quite proud of their customer satisfaction ratings for these local centres.
The basis for the refusal to allow Tesla to sell direct in Texas is based on this comment from the Governor: “Texas has a very robust, very open, very effective automobile sector that seems like it’s working quite well the way that it is. If you’re going to have a breakdown in a car, you need to have a car dealership there to make sure that the vehicle is going to be taken care of. We haven’t seen that from Tesla.”
In simple terms, the Governor will not allow Tesla to open a dealer network because …. they do not already have a dealer network! If they had a dealer network already, they would not need to go through this exercise! Go figure.
I have read several reports that suggest that lobbying by other dealer network organisations has been successful, however you also have to consider another more obvious fact. Texas is an oil State and a Tesla is not powered by oil. The lobbyists claim that by selling cars direct from the manufacturer to the customer damages the family run dealers seling other brands and that the customer will be disadvantaged. I don’t see the logic in that statement – in reality, the customer has a stronger relationship with the guys that made the product and as such can get their concerns heard faster and any problems dealt with quicker.
Elon Musk has spent the last two years trying to persuade the Government to allow him to open up a sales network, even hiring his own lobbyists and donating generously to campaign funds – in other words trying to ratchet up the bribes to gain an agreement.
Texas is a lucrative market for any car company and so the rewards are there for the taking, however, if the Texas Government refuses to accept any sales tax then so be it. If I were Tesla, I would keep the status quo – they do not have the costs of building and maintaining a network, can sell online (which must be cheaper) and still look after the customer with their existing maintenance centres. The other option is to allow a “family-run” dealer network to be their local agent. From my experience, there aren’t that many family run dealers left anymore – several major chains have pushed the smaller dealers out of the market or acquired them.
The next chance to get any agreement is 2017 and I would recommend Tesla not waste the money to lobby the Government. Let the 4 adjoining States (New Mexico, Oklahoma, Arkansas and Louisiana) take the sales taxes. The existing customers appear to be happy with the arrangement so keep it going.