Could Tesla Motors' Gigafactory battery plant really find a home in Texas, a state historically hostile to its sales model? Suspicions are heating up after Tesla officials had a secret meeting in San Antonio yesterday with top city and county officials.
We've known for some time that Texas is one of the top contenders for the Gigafactory, so much so that even Texas Gov. Rick Perry — himself a large recipient of car dealer campaign contributions — suggested it's time to change the ban on direct car sales if it meant helping to bring the Gigafactory's money and jobs to his state. Last we heard, Lubbock in West Texas was one possible site.
Now the San Antonio Express-News reports that on Wednesday, two unnamed Tesla execs met with the city's mayor, the county's top elected official, economic development folks, and someone from the local utility company.
Those Tesla execs are part of "a site-selection process that's examining locations in Texas, Arizona, Nevada and New Mexico," the newspaper says. They also visited a potential Gigafactory site in San Antonio.
The timing of the meeting is also interesting when one considers the pro-direct sales remarks San Antonio Mayor Julián Castro made on his Facebook page Tuesday night:
"Today, Tesla is prohibited from selling its cars directly to consumers in Texas. State law requires that they be sold through a dealer. I respect our state's auto dealers, but that law ought to change," Castro wrote on Facebook. "That's like telling Apple it can't sell its products at an Apple Store but has to sell them through Best Buy or Walmart instead. Makes no sense."
No one has said a state's barring of direct sales will be a deal breaker for the Gigafactory, but one can imagine that allowing Tesla to sell their cars the way they want would certainly help things along.
As reader PatBateman pointed out recently, Tesla in Texas makes sense for a lot of reasons. And obviously, Tesla wouldn't be the only automotive-related manufacturer in the Alamo City. Toyota, already a Tesla investor, also makes their Tacoma and Tundra trucks there. It may end up being a good fit.
But Tesla is still looking at sites for the factory in three other states. In Arizona, a bill is advancing through the state legislature to allow direct sales; back in Texas, Perry's office said there is no plans for a special legislative session to consider the sales issue. (The Texas legislature only meets on odd-numbered years.) Will this come down to who can sweeten up Tesla the fastest?
It's also important to note — as Opponaut The Dummy Gummy did today — that potential Gigafactory partner Panasonic has not yet committed to the plant, citing investment risks. This may not be as done a deal as people think it is.
Hat tip to Muffin!