Tesla Model S and X owners face discrimination at dealer-run auto show

(Photo: James Ransom/The Drive)

A number of Tesla owners are calling foul on the organizers of the 2019 Kansas City Auto Show after the event’s organizers, the Automobile Dealers Association of Greater Kansas City (ADAKC), showed discrimination against a Model S and Model X by forcing the electric cars out of the event.

The annual exhibition is being held at the Bartle Hall convention center, and since the auto show itself did not fill the entire venue, the ADAKC allocated the south end of the exhibit hall to the Kansas City Auto Museum. The museum reached out to the local auto enthusiast community to look for volunteers who wish to display their vehicles as part of the event. Numerous locals answered the call, bringing their cars over to be part of the show. Among these vehicles were a Tesla Model S and Model X.

Tesla enthusiast James Ransom prepared the two electric cars for the auto show, dropping them off at the exhibition’s location. The next day, he received a call from the event’s organizers informing him that the Teslas are not welcome in the event. Ransom explained the circumstances in a statement to The Drive.

“I was called on Wednesday evening and asked to remove the Teslas. I was told that the cars were not allowed to stay because they were not part of the Dealers Association. Something about a higher-up in the association who said that the Teslas could not be at the show due to the manufacturer not using dealerships for their sales,” Ransom said.

(Photo: James Ransom/The Drive)

Fellow Tesla owner and prominent Kansas-based auto enthusiast Ken Smiley, whose 1956 Jaguar XK140 and 2016 Porsche GT4 are on display at the show, noted in an email to Teslarati that the ADAKC’s excuse for the removal of the two electric cars was questionable at best. Smiley mentioned in an email that there were several other vehicles on display from manufacturers who were not part of the ADAKC, such as Noble, Pontiac, Ariel, and Lamborghini. All these vehicles were welcomed and allowed to remain.

To address the situation, Ken sent an email to the organizers, calling them out on the discriminatory practice. Below is the Tesla owner’s email in full.

Dear Larry and Natalie,

It has come to my attention that a particular make of automobile is being singled out for unfair discrimination at the KC Auto Show this year and that the owners of these cars were asked to remove them from Bartle Hall. The vehicles in question were two used Tesla automobiles owned by private individuals and put on display as part of the KC Auto Museum’s variety of cars display at the KC Auto Show. As an officer/member in multiple car clubs in Kansas City (Porsche, Jaguar, All British, Tesla) I find this action reprehensible and urge you to immediately reconsider your actions before something like this goes viral and brings negative publicity to the car show.

I understand that with regard to NEW cars that Tesla does not have a dealer network and does not participate in the Automobile Dealer Association of Greater Kansas City. I would understand if your association told Tesla that they could not bring new cars down and could not be represented at the show unless they joined the organization. However, this is NOT what is happening in this instance. These two cars are privately owned used cars brought by their enthusiastic owners to help support the KC Auto Museum display at the auto show. There were owners who brought Pontiacs, a Noble, a couple of Ariel Atoms and Lamborghinis ALL of which are NOT members of the ADAKC. So if you are going to discriminate against non-members, then you need to do it equally and ask that ALL non-member cars leave the show, not simply single out Tesla.

Please let me know whether or not the Teslas are welcome to come back or if the unfair discrimination against these owners and their vehicles is going to continue. Speaking of the owners, the people you are hurting are automotive enthusiasts, not the audience you want to hurt. These individuals took their time to clean up their cars and transport them down to Bartle Hall only to be told a few hours later that they had to take them back out. While I currently have two cars on display at the show (1956 Jaguar XK140 and 2016 Porsche GT4) I am not sure that I will be willing to support a show in the future that unfairly discriminates against a certain model car. I hesitate to think how Marion Battaglia would react if I told him that either my Jag or Porsche was being discriminated against and being asked to leave the show. As I mentioned, this unfair discrimination isn’t hurting Tesla the car company, which the association may have an issue with, but rather hurting individual automotive enthusiasts.



The auto enthusiast notes that the ADAKC has not responded to his email yet. Due to the incident and the blatant act of discrimination, Ken notes that numerous car fans and Tesla owners are boycotting the event to show their frustration at the organizers. An ADAKC spokesperson did issue a statement to The Drive, but based on the organization’s stance, it appears that they are putting the blame on the offended Tesla enthusiasts.

“This is a non-story. Ken Smiley is simply bringing this up because he seems to be angry and wants to stir the pot,” the spokesperson said, adding that the two Teslas do not fit the “Classic Car” theme of the exhibition. When pressed by the publication why other modern vehicles from non-ADAKC members, such as Ariel Atoms and Lamborghini Huracans, were allowed to remain, the spokesperson was less certain, stating that they “had to talk to the show’s producer.”

The 2019 Kansas City Auto Show was held from March 6-10, 2019.

Tesla Model S and X owners face discrimination at dealer-run auto show
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