Tesla Petition Gets Limp White House Response

A petition started in 2013 aimed at the White House to allow Tesla Motors to sell cars directly to consumers in all 50 States was slapped down by the Obama administration, which claims that laws regulating auto sales sit at the state level.

For years Tesla has been engaged in seemingly constant disputes with states, other auto makers, and dealerships surrounding their direct sales method.  This back and forth squabbling has denied some customers access to the Tesla electric vehicles (EVs) thus stunting the growth and spread of EVs. In response to this push back to Tesla a petition appeared on the White Houses own “We The People” site.

The request of the Tesla petition was simple: States should not be allowed to prevent Tesla Motors from selling cars directly to customers. The state legislators are trying to unfairly protect automobile dealers in their states from competition. Tesla is providing competition, which is good for consumers.

Tesla and the Obama Administration have enjoyed a prosperous relationship. Tesla has benefited greatly from the federal loan programs put into action by the Obama Administration for alternative fuel vehicles. Meanwhile Tesla CEO Elon Musk has publicly donated to the election campaigns of President Obama and other members of the Presidents inner circle. Telsa has also been very publicly touted as a success story by the Obama administration. So, when the White House responded to the petition by essentially punting the issue down to the state legal level, Tesla and the thousands of signers of the petition were disappointed.

Tesla’s response to the White House was, as always, on point;

138,469 people signed the petition asking the White House to allow Tesla Motors to sell directly to consumers in all 50 states. More than a year later, at 7.30pm EST on Friday as most of America prepared for the weekend, the White House released its disappointing response to those people. Rather than seize an opportunity to promote innovation and support the first successful American car company to be started in more than a century, the White House issued a response that was even more timid than its rejection of a petition to begin construction of a Death Star.

Instead of showing the sort of leadership exhibited by senior officials at the Federal Trade Commission who declared their support for consumer freedom of choice, the White House merely passed the buck to Congress and trumpeted its advances in promoting vehicle efficiency. Given the economic and environmental principles at stake, we would have hoped for stronger leadership and more action.

Frankly, I am not all that surprised by the White House’s decision to let the states handle the selling of cars. With the passage of the Affordable Care Act and social issues like the legalization of marijuana or the taxing of internet access, just to name a few, there is a lot of talk these days about states’ rights and a growing fear of big government control.

At the core of this is the issue of what is fair and who gets to say what is fair. If the Federal Government is deciding what is fair than that treads on states’ rights and has a direct impact on all citizens because no matter what state they go to the Federal decision remains. When the White House passes the buck back to the states they remove themselves from the situation – read eases concern over big government takeover–   but the White House still maintains the ability to voice their opinion and show support or lack of support on the issue, thus potentially indirectly swaying the public and state official opinion.

Ultimately though, public favor sits largely with Tesla, with both conservative and liberal pundits taking the electric automakers side. The car dealer lobby has its work cut out for them, even without the Obama Administration weighing in. It’s all just a matter of time now.



Andrew Meggison

Andrew Meggison was born in the state of Maine and educated in Massachusetts. Andrew earned a Bachelor's Degree in Government and International Relations from Clark University and a Master's Degree in Political Science from Northeastern University. In his free time Andrew enjoys writing, exploring the great outdoors, a good film, and a creative cocktail. You can follow Andrew on Twitter @AndrewMeggison