It's that time again in the Lone Star State — the Texas Legislature is once again open for business! And as it was in 2013, there's a big fight over whether or not to allow Tesla Motors to sell their cars directly to customers, much to the ire of franchised dealers, who are fighting it tooth and nail.
Unfortunately, the dealers' war against Tesla hit an intellectual low point with the launch of TexasFreeMarket.com, an anti-Tesla, anti-direct sales propaganda website with arguments so dumb they make my brain bleed brain-blood when I attempt to read and understand them.
To recap: Tesla wants to sell their cars direct to customers like Apple does with computers but the entrenched and deep-pocketed car dealer lobby feels threatened by this possibility.
It's not unreasonable to think that as they grow and increase their sales targets, Tesla will want to franchise at some point. One can imagine it would make distribution and repairs a lot easier, and some dealers have even reached out to Tesla with this offer only to be turned down. Right now, it's not what they want to do.
On the other hand, why shouldn't Tesla — or any other company — be allowed to sell direct to customers? It wouldn't mean the end of franchised dealers, just another choice for customers. Isn't that the free market at work?
According to the Texas Automotive Dealers Association's site, no, not at all. Why? Because California. Or something. Let's go through their argument and see if we can make sense of it. (Spoiler alert: We can't.)
Recently filed legislation places local, homegrown businesses and our free market economy under attack. These bills would allow eccentric billionaire Elon Musk, founder of California-based Tesla Motors, to sell his luxury electric cars directly to consumers, bypassing our existing franchised dealer laws in Texas.
See? CALIFORNIA-BASED Tesla Motors is here to threaten the free market because they're run by an eccentric billionaire. Is it right to call Elon Musk that? Sure, he runs a space travel company on the side, but it's not like he's locked in a hotel room surrounded by jars full of his own urine, nor did he have a $4.5 million Game of Thrones-themed wedding. Musk seems to be more on the normal end of the eccentric billionaire spectrum.
I should also explain that in Texas, "California" is kind of a four-letter word. It's code for the looming threat of unions, liberal college professors, homosexuals, flag burners, Democrats, biker gangs who can cook better meth than we can and other undesirables who want to destroy the Texas economic miracle.
Our new governor Greg Abbott, a kind of poor man's Rick Perry (I know, it sucks) likes to caution us of the looming threat of "California-ization." It's silly scare tactics, but it works with some people.
Clearly, that's what TADA is going for here.
Might sound like "free market" but don't be fooled. Special favors are not a free market principle.
Aren't the franchise laws in place because dealers lobbied for them in the first place? Isn't that a special favor? Or is something not a favor when you pay for it? Continuing:
Why would Texas legislators want to give a special favor to a California liberal? Nothing in state law is preventing a citizen of Texas from purchasing a Tesla today. Many Texas franchised dealers are eager to help Tesla succeed and have contacted Tesla seeking an opportunity to retail their vehicles – including offering to absorb any capital expenses required for the Tesla model. Tesla would instead prefer a special set of rules for just their company – putting profits over Texans, and Texas communities.
It's those damn California liberals again! Hurting Texas communities with their expensive electric luxury sedans! I don't know about you, but I sure am glad I'm stockpiling canned goods and ammo.
Also, note how they say Texas dealers are "eager to help Tesla succeed." So why is the bulk of this missive devoted to shitting on Musk as a California crazy person whose company will ruin the state? Do you want to do business with Tesla or not, dealers?
In a true free market established laws apply equally to all. Elon Musk and Tesla just don't think the rules should apply to them. They are asking for an exception to state law that will create a monopoly just for them, allowing them to sell their vehicles at one non-negotiable list price and export every penny of profit to California, leaving nothing for Texas.
Does Musk not think the rules apply to him? Well... he's a Silicon Valley guy, so maybe, yeah. But the last sentence, about how allowing direct sales would "export every penny of profit to California, leaving nothing for Texas" is my favorite part of this argument. Because it's batshit crazy and makes very little sense, if any.
I literally have no clue what TADA means here. Are they mad because the cars aren't built in Texas? Then the same could be said of any car that isn't built in Texas. It's as dumb as the people who scream "You're sending the profits to JAPAN!" at the guy who buys a Camry built in Kentucky. Except even stupider.
TADA knows that Texas' Tesla buyers — who currently must order their cars online and get them delivered — do pay the state sales tax when they register their cars here, right?
Oh wait, no, I get it now. When they say "leaving nothing for Texas," they really mean "leaving nothing for Texas CAR DEALERS." Gotcha.
Ironically, proponents of this legislation say that they believe in free enterprise unencumbered by government interference and that they support the immediate removal of government barriers. Yet Tesla has existed and indeed intends to continue to exist with significant government handouts and subsidies. One conservative recently said that Tesla is, "worse than Solyndra." There's a certain irony that Mr. Musk complains about government intervention such as consumer-protection driven franchised dealer laws, yet Tesla wouldn't exist as it does today without massive government handouts.
Oh good, let's bring Solyndra into this, because it's 2011 again. If "one conservative" recently made that analogy, it must be true!
It's correct that Tesla did receive $465 million in federal loans under the Advanced Technology Vehicle Manufacturing program to produce cars at the former NUMMI plant in Fremont, California.
But Tesla also paid back their loans nine years early and with a net gain of $12 million to taxpayers. The program worked like it was supposed to, created jobs and put an American company at the forefront of electric vehicle manufacturing. What does the "one conservative" say about that?
The motor vehicle franchised dealer system in Texas creates a level playing field so that there is fierce competition on price and service amongst dealers, and there is consumer protection afforded to the buyer over the lifetime of the vehicle.
Oh really? Like the protection that Camaro ZL1 owner got in Delaware when the dealership totaled his car and refused to pay for it? Or the dealership that protected owners by scamming them with extras? Or the dealership that protected consumers so well they got indicted on federal conspiracy charges?
Listen, dealers: Don't act like you're the second coming of Jesus just because you sponsor some Little League teams.
When Texas franchised dealers make a profit, that capital is reinvested right here in Texas. Tesla's profits will be exported to California leaving NOTHING for Texas.
Once again — what the actual fuck does that even mean? "Leaving NOTHING for Texas?" That's like saying... I don't know, Texas loses out when you buy a Ford Expedition over a Chevrolet Suburban because the Suburban is made in Texas and the Expedition isn't? Except that analogy makes more sense than what TADA says?
Oh no, my brain is bleeding again.
Listen, dealers. You have to do better than this. Anyone can see that your case is silly, half-formed and mostly just scare tactics. As it stands now you have condescended to your audience, the worst sin in all of writing. I don't know what you guys paid for this campaign, but it was too much, whatever it was.
It's hard to see the current franchise laws as anything but protectionist bullshit, and a bunch of fear-mongering about California and wacko billionaires isn't going to convince anyone otherwise.
Hat tip to TireMan!
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