Tesla lovers, rejoice.
You now can go to the car manufacturer’s Scottsdale showroom and the Tesla sales staff can tell you how much the cars cost.
They can even sell you one and before they do, you can take a test drive — all things that were strictly forbidden in Arizona until now.
So who do we have to thank for this innovative breakthrough, allowing a business to actually sell its wares in its store?
Here’s a hint:
Not Gov. Doug Ducey.
And not the Arizona Legislature.
Oh, they’re all for innovation. (See: Uber.) Just not when it cuts into the take for major Republican Party contributors.
Tesla Motors has long been trying to get permission from the state to sell its electric cars in its showroom at Scottsdale Fashion Square and at its location in Tempe.
The Arizona Department of Transportation in 2012 refused to issue the company the necessary dealer’s license, citing an Arizona law that seemed to bar manufacturers from directly selling its cars to consumers.
Specifically, the law said car manufacturers “shall not directly or indirectly compete with or unfairly discriminate among its dealers” To ensure that doesn’t happen, “operating or acting in the capacity of, a new motor vehicle dealer” is forbidden, the law says.
Tesla tried in 2015 to get the Arizona Legislature to change the law so that it could cut out the middleman car dealer.
This, even as Ducey and the Legislature were clearing the way for Uber and Lyft to more easily operate in Arizona.
This, even though Ducey repeatedly talked about removing barriers to business and encouraging innovation.
“We are going to clear the pathway to be the most entrepreneurial, most innovative state in the country,” the governor said, at the time.
Just not, as it turned out, when it comes to selling cars.
I’m guessing that might have something to do with the fact that car dealers are a major financial force in the state Republican Party.
Tucson car dealer Jim Click is among the state’s largest individual contributors to political campaigns. He and his wife gave more than $370,000 to the Republican Party and its candidates in 2014, including nearly $150,000 to get Ducey elected.
That we know of, that is. Ducey enjoyed millions in dark money support in 2014 and of course, we aren’t allowed to know who those donors were.
Click also was one of five people to serve on Ducey’s inaugural committee.
So it’s no surprise that Tesla was given the cold shoulder at the Capitol.
Turns out it didn’t matter.
The Arizona Capitol Times’ Jeremy Duda is reporting that ADOT was forced to give Tesla a dealer’s license last year after an administrative law judge in July ruled that Tesla can sell its cars directly to consumers.
Judge Jerald Hale ruled that Tesla can’t be denied a license because it has no network of dealers and thus the prohibition against competing with its dealers doesn’t apply.
The Arizona Automobile Dealers Association sued ADOT but a Superior Court judge dismissed the case. Neither the dealers nor ADOT appealed. Probably because the administrative law judge was right.
Now you can not only visit the showroom to see a Tesla, you can actually find out from a salesman how much the cars cost and even take a test drive before buying.
Look for the car dealers to push back when the Legislature convenes next year.
And won’t it be interesting to see how much dough they dump into the 2018 campaigns, as our leaders run for re-election?
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