Can Tesla’s Biggest Fan Make the White House Listen?
If the fans of Tesla (NASDAQ:TSLA) get their way, President Obama will one day weigh in on the electric car maker’s nationwide plight. A passionate stockholder and Tesla supporter known only as “Ken” launched a Whitehouse.gov petition asking to allow Tesla to operate throughout the country and is building quickly to the 100,000 signatures it would take to warrant a response from Obama’s team.
The man named Ken is not a Tesla employee, but he told CNET he does own stock in Tesla, and believes strongly in the cause. Tesla is facing restrictions all over the country that are barring its direct sales model in one way or another. Because automakers are not allowed to sell directly to consumers (and instead must license dealerships), Tesla’s direct approach has brought the auto dealer lobby out in force. Texas, North Carolina, and New York are three states recently in the news for banning (or almost banning) Tesla stores.
For Ken to get President Obama’s attention, the petition he posted on the White House site must reach 100,000 signatures by July 5. Between Wednesday June 26 and Sunday June 30, Ken’s petition vaulted from 17,000 signatures to over 70,000. Just over 29,500 signers were need to reach the goal at the time of writing. It appears Ken might get his wish.
“States should not be allowed to prevent Tesla Motors from selling cars directly to customers,” Ken’s spare petition reads. “The state legislators are trying to unfairly protect automobile dealers…Tesla is providing competition, which is good for consumers.”
Ken’s points might be valid, but it would take a change in existing laws for Tesla to be cleared for commerce in all 50 states. As Dara Kerr pointed out on the CNET site, auto dealers provide states with a large amount of tax revenue, not to mention donations to campaigns. The way the political system works, it is unlikely lawmakers would pass on that tax revenue to level the playing field.
Car dealerships exist because regulators believed there needed to be an intermediary protecting the consumer. In Ken and other Tesla fans’ view, that protection is now a hindrance to the future of the auto industry. If another 30,000 people sign, he at least will get the ear of the administration.