Tesla has never been part of the auto dealer-franchise system entrenched in the modern marketplace. This direct-sales strategy has irked Virginia’s car dealer lobby, but it’s indisputably good for the car-buying public. Under Virginia law, that’s ample reason for letting Tesla sell directly to consumers. The commissioner of the Department of Motor Vehicles has the authority to allow Tesla to operate its own store in the Richmond area, and he should approve the company’s application.
Tesla already has a store in Tysons Corner, where I recently purchased a Model X. The experience, like the car, was unlike any I’ve encountered because the company is committed to educating customers about the vehicle and its technology, rather than rushing to make a sale.
In a free market, a company should be able to make its own decisions about how and where it serves its customers. Tesla wants to open a showroom and service shop at Broad Street and Stillman Parkway. Henrico’s Board of Supervisors approved the company’s use of the site, which would help revitalize that area, bolster the local economy and create dozens of new jobs.
The dealer lobby has overreacted by trying to block Tesla’s application. Dealers cannot serve the public interest by selling Tesla vehicles because a dealer’s business model depends on revenue earned through service work that a Tesla doesn’t require. Industry research and Tesla’s record suggest the company can sell its cars more effectively, and at a lower cost, than traditional dealers, and it can give customers the service and attention that they deserve. Hopefully that can happen soon in Richmond.
-Stuart C. Siegel, Richmond
- Published on Page A10 of the Richmond Times-Dispatch on Saturday, Nov. 5, 2016, and online at Richmond Times-Dispatch