NorthPark Getting a Tesla Gallery Even Though the Company Can't Sell Cars Here

Categories: Transportation

A_sea_of_Tesla_Model_S_electric_cars.jpg
Steve Jurvetson
You can look, you can even touch, just don't ask about price or even think about trying to buy one.
An attempt to change state rules that require cars to be sold from dealerships was buried in a flood of Texas Automobile Dealers Association cash, but that's not stopping Tesla from opening its third Texas gallery today, this one at NorthPark Center.

Visitors to the section of the mall between Dillard's and Macy's will be able to chat with Tesla representatives, check out a Model S and see a stripped-down version of the car that exposes its electric powertrain, Tesla spokeswoman Alexis Georgeson said.

Because of state restrictions, the gallery employees will not be able to take orders, offer test drives or even discuss price with visitors, Georgeson says. Those rules make Texas one of five states in which Tesla is completely forbidden from selling directly to consumers.

To get a Tesla, Texans must order one of the electric cars online, take delivery from a third-party service and wait at least 48 hours before getting any help from Tesla with the car. It's onerous, but Georgeson says there are still more than 2,000 Model S owners in the state.

John Shackelford, an attorney who represents North Texas car dealers, says carving out an exemption by which Tesla would not, as all other manufacturers are, be required to sell cars through a dealership would lead to the end of dealerships.

"In time, all of the major manufacturers are ultimately going to want to move in that direction and eliminate the dealers" he says. "Is that a good thing or a bad thing? That's something, if that ever came about, for society to debate."

The difficulties faced by those who want to buy a Tesla, like having to go to a different state to test drive one or being unable to roll the considerable sales tax on one of the $70,000-plus cars into an auto loan, isn't a big deal, Shackelford says, because only the wealthy can afford one.

"If you want a Tesla, we're not talking about your middle income type person working their butt off to make ends meet," he says. "Those 2,000 Tesla owners are more affluent. A lot of those guys aren't even test driving them because they know what they can do."

State Representative Eddie Rodriguez of Austin says the dealers' concerns are overblown.

"It's these guys job to say, if this happens, the sky will fall," he says. Rodriguez believes that Teslas are a unique product that will have very little effect on longstanding dealerships.

Rodriguez sponsored a failed bill in the last session to allow direct Tesla sales to Texans, Under Rodriguez's plan, once Tesla sold 5,000 cars in a year, they would need to have dealerships like any other manufacturer. Still, his bill, and a similar Senate bill. didn't even make it to a vote.

Tesla plans to offer a cheaper model, rumored to be in the $40,000 range, by 2017. Rodriguez says he's still hopeful that purchasing one of the cars will be easier by then.

Increased publicity for the cars, the possibility of a Tesla battery plant coming to Texas and the fact that Tesla founder Elon Musk has already invested in the state with a SpaceX facility outside of Waco could change many legislators' minds, Rodriguez says.

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9 comments
ryan762
ryan762

If Apple is allowed to have their own stores to sell their merchandise, then no retailer will ever be allowed to sell Apple products in this state. That's why you don't see any stores other than Apple stores selling iPods or iPhones.

doublecheese
doublecheese

I'll never drive one of these until I can buy one from a former professional athlete.

Wine_Curmudgeon
Wine_Curmudgeon

The auto distribution system is the same as the liquor distribution system, in which consumers aren't allowed to purchase directly from the producer (with a couple of exceptions). The auto dealers, like their counterparts, the beer, spirits, and wine distributors, own the legislature, and the system will never change. No state rep or senator, regardless of party, is going to vote against the wishes of his local car dealer. They are the source of local jobs, especially in rare in rural areas, friends at the country club, and so forth.


The irony is that Gov. Goodhair says we need to eliminate the dealer system, so he can score points with Tesla for the battery factory, and make some national news in case he wants to run for president again. But he knows the dealer system isn't changing, and says this stuff knowing none of it is true.

d-may
d-may

""It's these guys job to say, if this happens, the sky will fall," he says. Rodriguez believes that Teslas are a unique product that will have very little effect on longstanding dealerships."

Well, this is absolutely wrong. Tesla is disrupting the entire industry -from concept to design to factory to sales. Tesla is the most important car company right now, by far.  The Tesla S is the automotive equivalent of the iPhone in 2007. Super expensive right now but won't be forever. Musk's long term goal is a $20,000 Tesla. If you drive one, you understand that every other (luxury or not) car is obsolete. Just read Consumer Report's article on the Model S. They gave it a 99 because they didn't even know how to rate it. Or check the fed's safety rating, it was off the charts on every category. The Model S is like an intergalactic space ship from the future dropped by Earth to gift humanity with technology 1000 years advanced of our own. 

Further, and more to the point of the article, dealerships are also obsolete right now. Tesla wants to take Apple's Store model to cars, and why shouldn't they? Musk wants to shake up every aspect of the industry. The dealers are dinosaurs and Elon Musk is an asteroid. 

bvckvs
bvckvs topcommenter

@ryan762 
I saw a whole rack of iPads for sale at a local shop - America Cash and Pawn.

bvckvs
bvckvs topcommenter

@TheCredibleHulk 

I saw one on the news the other day.  It looks like young Jim Kirk's, from the  Star Trek movie.  Very cool.

The only catch seems to be that they're too quiet - so the riders will have to be much more careful than they are today.

OxbowIncident
OxbowIncident

@Wine_Curmudgeon  I think another comparison could be made with Uber and the taxi business in Dallas and other cities. Old style good old boy politics meets the Internet and smartphone apps. Technology is providing transparency about many of these industries that once exposed, the general public will not tolerate. It's probably why you see the Republican party divided more than it ever has been as it is conflicted to support new (technology)business in general versus its traditionally biggest donors.

James080
James080

@Wine_Curmudgeon 

There is a reason businesses pay millions of dollars to lobbyists, and lobbyists then spew millions of dollars to politicians. Businesses purchase laws that protect their turf, always at the expense of the consumer. Both parties practice this brand of crony capitalism. It's why over 90% of incumbents get reelected every cycle.

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