The only automaker to stand up to the automobile dealer associations (ADA), the Tesla Motors direct-sales strategy has been welcomed in some states, but obstructed in others.
For the most part, the most vocal participants in this struggle have been the ADAs, in whose pocket sit the politicians, and Tesla Motors, the only automaker selling cars directly to the consumer, as well as a few consumer rights groups. The Tesla Motors strategy has the ADAs up at arms because, ostensibly, this might change the way that other automakers interact with the customer. Really, the ADAs have only their own substantial financial interests at heart, while consumers must be content to whine about poor customer service. (Having worked hard to change that impression, I can tell you that automobile dealers, as a whole, have a horrible reputation, and changing the problem from the inside is a nigh-impossible task.)
Interestingly, one party has been silent during this discussion regarding Tesla Motors right to sell directly to the consumer, instead of through the ADA, has been the automakers themselves. One would think that, if the automakers were interested in maintaining or changing their relationship with the ADAs, they could exert considerably more force than the ADAs themselves.
Well, in the fight between Tesla Motors and the ADAs, one automaker has finally spoken out, General Motors. General Motors Vice-President of Global Communication Selim Bingol send a letter to Ohio Governor John Kasich, to effect that Tesla Motors should not be allowed to operate “under a completely different set of rules” than other automakers. Bingol went on to write, “We understand discussions are ongoing over legislation which could provide a broad exemption for a single manufacturer, Tesla Motors Inc., to circumvent long-established legal precedent on how new motor vehicles are marketed, sold and serviced in your state.”
So, General Motors is the first to speak up, will this awaken other automakers to do the same? General Motors earned some $3.8 billion last year, which is a decent financial hammer to wield against Tesla Motors, but consider Toyota Motor Corporation (TMC), who earned some $23.7 billion dollars last year. Surely TMC could reinforce or smash the ADAs with that kind of hammer. (Personally, I vote “smash.”)