Tesla Vs. Auto Dealer Lobby: May the Best Cash Win?

Tesla Cars

In the world of capitalism and politics, the deepest pockets are always supposed to win. However, Tesla (NASDAQ:TSLA) has found success among state and federal lawmakers by simply showing them the magic of the Model S. According to a Bloomberg report, Tesla has managed to salvage its sales model in states by giving politicians a firsthand look at its innovative vehicles just when the car dealer lobby was set to crush the EV maker.

A lopsided tale of the tape 

Looking at the auto lobby stats must be a depressing act for Tesla. The National Institute on Money in State Politics tallied the auto dealer lobby’s contributions to politicians between 2003 and 2012 at $86.8 million. Tack on the $53.7 million auto dealers offered up to politicians seeking federal office (per the Center for Responsive Politics) and there was more than $140 million spent in order to promote auto dealership interests during that period.

For Tesla’s part, the electric vehicle maker spent about $500,000 since it started producing its innovative cars in 2003. Disparities this large — a ratio of 280:1 — typically mean every decision goes in the richer party’s favor. However, charismatic chief executive Elon Musk has found ways to win over lawmakers that respond to the pure joy of driving.

Old-fashioned joy rides

While Tesla has felt the heat in states such as Texas and New York, North Carolina has been particularly hostile to the dealership-free sales model that the electric automaker has adopted. The state Senate was about to approve a bill that would have stopped online car sales there when Tesla brought a Model S to the North Carolina legislature and invited lawmakers to give the thrilling electric vehicle a whirl.

According to Bloomberg, the House Speaker of North Carolina compared the joy of gunning the Tesla’s motor to the feeling of revving a Ford (NYSE:F) Mustang Boss engine in the 1980s. Following that joy ride, the Speaker declined to bring the bill to the floor for a vote, and Tesla lived to sell another car online in North Carolina.

Tesla, at this point, has gotten used to hiring lobbyists and is well-known for the publicity machine that Elon Musk seems to enjoy fronting. However, the joy of driving may be the automaker’s biggest weapon of all. If it could stop the aggressive lobbying push of car dealers around the U.S., there’s plenty of proof in the Model S engine. After all, who doesn’t want the option to buy any type of car on the market?

“The only people who are opposed to Tesla are the dealers,” one Massachusetts lawmaker told Bloomberg. Tesla hopes the will of the people will win out as the battle continues.

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