Last year Elon Musk was famously rebuffed by Texas politicians who stood by the protectionist laws that prevent Tesla Motors from selling its vehicles there. CBS DFW reports that Tesla executives are planning to woo Texas politicians ahead of the new legislative session to allow sales of the Model S in the Lone Star state.
Tesla currently operates three galleries in Texas, but salespeople not only can’t offer test drives, they can’t discuss pricing or features or a lot of other pertinent information. All they can do is direct customers to the website, and even then the Model S has to be delivered via an out-of-state transportation service using non-descript trucks. For a state that prides itself on being “open for business” Texas has shut the door tight on Tesla sales.
Not that Tesla doesn’t have allies. Outgoing Texas governor Rick Perry cuddled up to Tesla in an attempt to bring the Gigafactory to his state, and at least one former Texas car dealer thinks the electric automaker should be allowed to operate its direct sales model. But the embedded dealership lobby still has a tight hold on the leashes of a lot of local politicians.
So how can Tesla turn the tides in their favor? That will most likely hinge on the promise of building future production facilities in Texas, perhaps the next Gigafactory or a second assembly plant for vehicles once production at the Fremont factory is maxxed out. Toyota recently made the decision to move its U.S. headquarters from California to Texas in part because of the more business-friendly laws, and though Tesla may remain “committed” to California, business is business and Musk has proven he can get what he wants from states when the chips are down.
Texas is a critical market for Tesla, as after California it’s the biggest new car market in America with an estimated 1.5 million sales expected in 2015. That would be about 10% of total U.S. new car sales, and if Tesla could get direct sales approved in Texas, it would bolster their argument in places like New Jersey and Michigan, which have also banned direct sales.
It won’t be an easy fight, but it’s a fight Tesla can’t ignore if it wants to sell 500,000 cars by the end of this decade.