“And that, I think, was the handle—that sense of inevitable victory over the forces of Old and Evil. Not in any mean or military sense; we didn’t need that. Our energy would simply prevail.” –HST, “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas”
When you read about the massive corruption in our political system, witness the recent bill in Michigan to ban Tesla Motors, certain past wisdom floats to the surface and is as relevant today as it was back in the early 1970s. Some thing don’t change.
For auto dealerships and associations, the old guard (evil? that’s up to you) seeks to prevent a new business model and technology from incurring on their turf, also known as a monopoly. It’s a survival trip and they support it by pouring money into political coffers and has been somewhat effective.
According to Tesla Motors, “Senator Joe Hune added new language in an attempt to lock Tesla out of the State. Unsurprisingly, Senator Hune counts the Michigan Automobile Dealers Association as one of his top financial contributors, and his wife’s firm lobbies for the dealers.“
So where do you go if you’re Elon Musk and Tesla Motors and want to sell cars via this system called capitalism. Tesla Motors apparatus doesn’t have money to plow into state legislature to “persuade,” plus this man’s energy and vision is 180 degrees in the other direction.
Last week at a car industry event, Autoline.com caught up with Musk and ask him about the franchise system. Musk said, “We (Tesla Motors) may need a hybrid system, with a combination of our own stores and some dealer franchises.” Smart man, extending an olive branch to an industry that is very afraid of electric cars and their limited service needs, while feeding the online kerfuffle created by Michigan’s Joe Hune.
However, Musk has technology on his side and electric car technology has “walked through door globally” and the company’s leverage grows each day. In a survey of 8,000 electric vehicle owners, released last summer by PlugInsights Research, 1.9 percent of respondent say that they would not return to an internal combustion engine after their electric car lease or they sell their electric vehicle.
I believe Elon is slow playing his hand. The undercurrent is strong and, at some point, dealer associations and legislators will want a marriage.
The future answer for all automakers could be a direct-to-consumer model just for electric cars, as the currently stalled New Jersey bill, A3216 promotes. This bill “would permit certain zero emission vehicle manufacturers to directly sell motor vehicles to consumers and requires them to operate service facilities.”
Make sense for traditional automakers due to higher manufacturing costs for plug-in electric cars and dealerships would get a small piece of the electric sales and even have kiosks or galleries in their dealerships featuring advanced vehicles? This story sounds familiar…
However, the “forces of Old,” would have to wake up from their afternoon nap to see that opportunity and Tesla Motors leverage could weaken with small China sales. However, China may be Elon Musk’s hedge against the “forces of old” and “inevitable victory” may be a possibility.