Elon Musk is fighting the New Jersey sales ban that made national headlines last month, appealing the state’s position and calling out the auto dealer lobby. Musk is obviously a fan of Sun Tzu, as he has chosen his battlefield well in the war against auto dealers.
To recap; last month New Jersey secretly and suddenly reversed its decision to allow two dealership licenses to Tesla, which meant their two stores would have to shut down by April 1st. Instead of being parsed in the legislature, a committee killed Tesla’s dealership licenses, which established dealers counted as a victory.
Unfortunately for the status quo, the national backlash from both political spectrums once again put Chris Christie’s administration in the hotseat, and popular opinion is definitely on Tesla’s side. It’s a much different reaction then when Texas or Arizona, two dyed-in-the-red-states, prohibited direct sales of the Tesla Model S, because there were no stores already established. By granting Tesla a license, and then revoking it at the behest of the local dealership lobby, New Jersey created a political firestorm that may give Musk the momentum needed to take on dealerships nationwide.
New Jersey’s proximity to liberal Northeast has helped Musk garner plenty of local support, and nationally the wave of anti-dealership sentiment has never been higher thanks to stories like these. People don’t like having their toys taken away, and the people that can afford the Tesla Model S generally have pretty deep pockets. Musk may even get some help from the New Jersey state legislature, though he seems ready to fight this battle on his own if need be. The conditions are ripe for change, and Musk has once again steered the national conversation in his favor.
But don’t count the dealers out yet, for they have lots of money and long-standing relationships with sitting politicians. They also have some of the world’s largest automakers on their side, though most of the industry has remained silent on the issue. In fact, the number of allies the auto dealers can count on are few, and dwindling. There are even those dealership heads that think the Tesla business model has merit, and deserves a place at the table with the rest of them. Tesla’s customer-centric policies have made them popular with people are are fed up with having to dealer with shady car salespeople.
This fracturing, even within the dealership lobby, says to me that it’s only a matter of time before the status quo falls by the wayside. Tick tock, tick tock.