Tesla faced Nebraska’s Transportation and Telecommunications Committee on Tuesday to support a proposed bill that would enable the California electric car maker to sell its vehicles directly in the state. Legislative Bill 830, introduced by Omaha Sen. Tony Vargas, gives Tesla the right to sell its vehicles directly to interested customers in the state, and bypass an existing law that prohibits car manufacturers from competing against franchise dealerships.
The hearing on Tuesday saw the attendance of Tesla representatives and several Tesla owners living in the state. Tesla senior manager of business development and policy Daniel Witt assured the committee that the electric car maker is not trying to abolish traditional dealerships at all. The Tesla executive further noted that allowing Tesla to sell its vehicles directly in the state would ultimately help other startups, such as Waymo and Lucid Motors.
“Tesla is not here today to overturn the franchise system. Where we have advocated for these types of changes, we have similarly not been in the business of trying to shut down local businesses. We like to think of ourselves as a small fish in a very big pond,” Witt said, according to a Lincoln Journal Star report.
While the support for Tesla was evident in the LB 830 hearing, however, many supporters of traditional auto dealerships also voiced out their reasons why they are opposing the Elon Musk-led firm’s business model. Mickey Anderson, co-owner of Omaha-based Baxter Auto Group, for one, asserted that allowing Tesla to engage in direct selling will not benefit the community or the consumer at all.
“Every manufacturer like Tesla recognizes that maintaining local franchises requires a bit of a profit share, so not only do they get corporate profits, but they also reinvest in the communities that they’re selling vehicles in. If you could claw that back, you would improve every manufacturer’s bottom line. I can tell you from working in the car business my entire life, that’s not what serves Nebraska or any community or consumer the best,” the Baxter Auto Group co-owner said.
Sen. Vargas, however, stated that instead of forcing Tesla to conform to conventional practices in the auto industry, the state should be supporting the company. According to Vargas, a direct selling business model ultimately benefits customers, as seen in the success of companies like Apple and Amazon.
“Consumers want the choice. We have new markets emerging all the time. Amazon and Apple sell directly to consumers. The rules change. Why is Nebraska trying to make new auto manufacturers like Tesla fit an old framework, instead of figuring out a mechanism to help them be able to operate and be effective and grow their business?” Vargas said.
Despite Nebraska’s law prohibiting the carmaker to open its showrooms in the state, however, Tesla still invests invaluable infrastructure to support its ever-growing user base in the area. Back in 2016, Tesla established the first Supercharger station in the state, catering to Model S and Model X owners.