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Tesla Model S sedan glamor shot
Tesla Model S
My next car will be a Tesla. It'll be a while. They're really expensive, though a lower-cost mass-market sedan is in the company's longer-term plans. But who wouldn't want a car that dispenses with messy fossil fuels (especially if recharged with solar, as I would), cleaned up all the major 2012 automobile awards (Motor Trend, Automobile, Yahoo), and got a near-perfect rating (99 out of 100) by Consumer Reports. Actually, the car should've gotten a 110 out of 100 rating, except the magazine automatically subtracts 10 percent from electric cars because of range concerns. It was simply the best car they've ever evaluated.

Of course, conservatives hate anything that helps the environment, even if it's good despite the fact it helps the environment. So naturally, they hate Tesla. Especially since it received government loans. But the company is now profitable, and supply is so constrained that the waiting list to receive a car is about eight months.

But Tesla is fascinating for another reason—it is a disruptive technology, and we know how the fossil-fuel and auto industry have worked hard to squelch any challenge to their dominance. And there is certainly an entire national infrastructure in place that is dependent on dirty, gas-guzzling vehicles. And that infrastructure is a definite barrier to change, as we'll see below the fold.

Model S chassis and powertrain
The Model S chassis (which is the battery), powertrain and suspension. The only moving parts are the axles and shocks. There is nothing more to it.
Take, for example, gas stations. They are ubiquitous in the urban landscape and on our nation's freeways. If your car runs out of gas, it's because you were an inattentive idiot. It's more complicated for electric cars. With a 240-mile range for the lowest-capacity Model S battery, there is generally no need for on-the-road infrastructure for typical commuting and tool-around-town duties. Your home is your refueling station. Just plug in at night and you're good to go. It's different on the highway, so much so that Tesla is actually building a network of recharging stations on the interstate system. And while it takes a few minutes to gas up, it takes 30-60 minutes to charge up on the road (and that kind of recharging speed is, in itself, a major technological accomplishment). Wouldn't bother me—I would plan my family's roadside dining around those stations, but it's an added hassle, no doubt, and a barrier to electrical vehicle adoption. That barrier is even higher with competing EVs, like the Chevy Volt, all of which have much shorter battery ranges.

But there's another major battle brewing between the status quo establishment and Tesla—the right to sell the car direct to consumers. Tesla rightfully disdains the dealership model. First of all, dealerships fucking suck. Does anyone enjoy the experience of buying a car? Does anyone say, "yeah, that dealer sure brought value to my transaction!" Hell no. They are a blight on our planet, societal parasites. And for some reason (likely having to do with campaign contributions), they've forced laws in every state prohibiting auto manufacturers from selling their product direct to consumers. Very "free market", huh?

To get around dealership laws, Tesla has created a network of "galleries" at high-end malls where customers can learn about the car. But if they want to buy, they go online to complete the transaction. They're not dealerships, just glossy brochures. Seems inoffensive enough, right?

Well, dealership trade groups have sued Tesla in several states like Massachusetts and New York. They want to force Tesla buyers to go through the same painful process everyone else must suffer. But with judges siding with the upstart, the dealers are looking to new strategies, asking legislatures to step in.

In North Carolina, the state Senate just passed such a bill unanimously, which would essentially bar North Carolina residents from buying the vehicles.  

Manufacturers would be barred from "using a computer or other communications facilities, hardware, or equipment" to sell or lease a car to anyone in the state, according to the legislation.
Can't use no fancy computers to purchase stuff! So let's roll back the entire state to the 20th century. Sheesh.

Dealerships are a bullshit business model obseleted by today's technology. Rather than fight Tesla's direct-sales model on behalf of asshole dealers, legislators should be allowing all car manufacturers to sell directly to consumers. If dealers offer so much value-add, let them compete for business. But they know, as we know, that they wouldn't last a year.

Originally posted to kos on Wed May 15, 2013 at 10:45 AM PDT.

Also republished by Daily Kos.

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