In defense of Tesla

I’ve been highly skeptical of electric cars in the past, not because I have any problem with the cars or anyone who wants to drive them, but because of all the compulsory tax money forced into the programs.  The Chevy Volt is by far the worst offender.  It’s one of the biggest wastes of U.S. taxpayer money you can find, outside of ObamaCare.  

But there’s compulsory money floating through just about every electric car project.  Want to manufacture a battery-powered vehicle?  I sincerely wish you the best of luck.  Want to buy one?  Knock yourself out, and I truly hope you find the purchase worthwhile.  But don’t force me to pay for any part of it, and don’t fool yourself into regarding some heavily-subsidized sticker price as a “bargain.”  

With that said, the current treatment of Tesla Motors by various state governments, especially New Jersey, is appalling.  Tesla, you see, does not employ third-party dealerships to sell its high-end electric automobiles.  They sell direct.  And the state of New Jersey just made it illegal for them to do so, putting them in a holding pattern until the legislature decides whether or not to put them back in business again.

There is no excuse for this, no way to justify it.  Governor Chris Christie should not be going along with this.  The excuses provided by his Administration are utterly laughable.  Here’s a sample, courtesy of Philly.com:

Christie spokesman Kevin Roberts responds: “Since Tesla first began operating in New Jersey one year ago, it was made clear that the company would need to engage the Legislature on a bill to establish their new direct-sales operations under New Jersey law. This administration does not find it appropriate to unilaterally change the way cars are sold in New Jersey without legislation, and Tesla has been aware of this position since the beginning.”

In short, as far as Christie is concerned, the proposed rule Tesla objects to just enshrines the status quo — NJ new car dealers need franchise deals with manufacturers; carmakers can’t sell directly to consumers — so it is Tesla that needs to go to lawmakers and seek a new law if it wants to bypass dealers and sell cars direct. Christie also says he would consider signing a General Assembly-approved bill that made Tesla’s way legal.

Tesla is not “unilaterally changing the way cars are sold,” in New Jersey or anywhere else.  They have no compulsive power to wipe out third-party dealerships for other automobiles.  They’re selling rather expensive cars to a niche market (and again, if they can turn a profit doing so, hallelujah.)  There is no danger of the entire dealership model collapsing because of whatever example they’re setting. 

This is all about dealerships (who I have no other brief against – best of success to each and every one of you, fellas) using raw, anti-competitive government power to protect a market.  It’s exactly what we need less of in America.  No matter our personal preferences regarding automobiles, electric or otherwise, we should be disgusted by the spectacle of government regulatory agencies jerking a law-abiding company around to protect the market share of influential interests.  If there are questions for the legislature to settle, so be it, but the government should always err on the side of competition and innovation.  I’m sick to death of watching those virtues beaten to death with clubs of political clout.  

This nation is starving for energetic competition, from new technologies to new business models.  Hyper-regulation and anti-competition have choked us nearly into a coma.  The “status quo” has been “enshrined” in too many marble temples with locked iron gates.  Give Tesla a shot at doing things their way, and if it doesn’t work out, let their shareholders suffer the consequences.  If it does work out, let their shareholders enjoy the profits.  And if they do manage to change an industry along the way, because the public falls in love with their business model… well, capitalism was always meant to be a series of torrid romances.

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