Ben Gilbert of Endgadget has a succinct explanation of why Tesla is finding it a chore to open its Apple Store-ish dealerships in many states. It seems to have nothing to do with electric vs. gas. An explanation:
“Why do so many states have provisions against direct-to-consumer car sales? Because of the way the car dealership system works. Early in the automotive industry, carmakers needed individual franchise owners to invest and set up a system for consumers to buy vehicles. Without highways, transporting vehicles was difficult. Additionally, cars required far more maintenance early on. Thus, the franchise model was born.
The companies making cars — Ford, GM, etc. — negotiated deals with car dealers. As The New Yorker explained in a 2009 piece, those early deals were weighted heavily against car dealers:
‘In 1920, for instance, the US economy went into a deep recession. But Henry Ford kept his factories running at full tilt, and forced thousands of Ford dealers around the country to buy new cars that they had little chance of selling. The dealers knew that if they said no they’d never see a Model T again, so they ate the inventory. A decade later, when the Great Depression hit, Ford and GM used the same strategy to help keep the production lines going. They turned their dealers into a cushion against hard times.’
To protect themselves, car dealers formed associations. Laws were enacted, and it’s those laws — meant to protect car dealers — that are interfering with Tesla’s ability to sell cars directly to consumers. Here’s the logic of the argument against Tesla: If Tesla can sell cars directly to consumers, what stops the rest of the car industry from doing that? That is the heart of this, so let’s be totally clear:
The entire argument against Tesla selling cars directly to consumers is that car dealers might have to face competition from the companies they currently represent.
That’s it. It’s not really about Tesla, or electric cars. It’s about money. It’s an argument against competition that may or may not even manifest in reality.”