Tesla Bigot: IADA’s Bruce Anderson

Bruce Anderson, president of the Iowa Automobile Dealers Association (IADA), recently forced the shutdown of a planned day of Model S test drives being offered by Tesla Motors in Des Moines. I’ve written before about Tesla and how auto dealerships—and their political allies—oppose the all-electric car manufacturer’s direct-to-consumer sales model.

But what car dealers, dealership trade groups, and self-serving Luddites like Anderson really oppose isn’t a particular sales model or how Tesla works with its customers. Rather, they fear fair competition. Compared to Tesla’s next-gen vehicles, their products suck. And they know it.

IADA Bruce Anderson - RESIZEAs reported in the Des Moines Register on September 25, “The Iowa Department of Transportation asked Tesla to stop its West Des Moines test drives after being alerted to the event by the [IADA].” One local resident, who had scheduled a test drive on the final day that was cancelled, lamented, “I hope they get [the laws] changed, because it’s just ridiculous.” Of course, are any of us really surprised that Iowa’s car dealers—in the form of Anderson—went crying to mommy because of a little competition?

And the logic behind the shutdown? In Iowa, “state law requires auto dealers to be licensed, and by offering test drives, Tesla was acting as a dealer,” wrote the Register. And who drew this conclusion? Paul Steier, Director of the Department of Transportation’s Bureau of Investigation and Identity Protection. More proof of the lack of intelligence and spirit of fair play in both government and old boy networks like car dealer associations.

To add insult to injury, Iowa lawmakers have little interest in changing the archaic laws currently prohibiting Tesla from conducting something as simple as a test drive of one of its efficient, zero emission cars. The blatant kowtowing of Iowa politicians to big business flies in the face of the desires of Iowa consumers.

Iowa Senator Matt McCoy, chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, is, ironically, a fan of Tesla’s cars, having test driven a Model S (in another state, natch) and publicly stated that he plans to purchase the less-expensive Model 3 after its release in 2017. However, McCoy is about as clueless and lacking in foresight as Anderson. “I have mixed feelings about it because I really like the car and I really like what the car stands for,” he said. “But in Iowa, we tend to respect our system and the way it was set up, and I don’t see any appetite to change that.”

Apparently McCoy’s “mixed feelings” are caused by his affinity for the Model S paired with his desire for corporate campaign contributions. By the Senator’s logic, his state would never have evolved beyond horse and buggy, because the Iowa Buggy Dealers Association would have called on its political friends and bureaucratic allies to block sales of the Model T—rationalized by antiquated laws passed before automobiles even came into existence.

Even West Des Moines State Rep. Peter Cownie, chairman of the House Commerce Committee, is in on the game. “You can’t have two sets of rules. That would create an unfair playing field for the small business owners and small car dealers,” he said. By Cownie’s logic, don’t the outdated laws preventing Tesla from offering simple test drives unfairly limit it from doing business and marketing itself in the state of Iowa? Tesla is, after all, a “small business” compared to Ford, Toyota, and GM (each of which, individually, produces more vehicles per day than Tesla has since its inception in 2003).

More important, aren’t these politicians, who were elected to serve their constituents, unfairly limiting the car buying options of those who voted them into office (many of whom have proven they wish to test drive and purchase all-electric cars, like those offered by Tesla)?

According to Anderson (a former attorney), auto dealership licensing “is a matter of consumer protection.” “You can’t just set up in a hotel parking lot and sell cars,” he said. Anderson denies targeting Tesla, saying “it’s not a Tesla issue. This is a regulated industry.” Meaning that it’s not only Anderson and dealerships that are the problem, but also state and federal politicians and bureaucrats. Do Anderson and the dealerships he represents really consider denying residents of their state the opportunity to test drive—let alone purchase—an all-electric vehicle to be “protecting” them?

model s and solar panelsCar dealers nationwide have been freaking out over Tesla’s entry into the crowded auto market. And for good reason. Tesla makes and sells sexy cars that are nearly silent, fast as a Porsche, and do zero damage to the local environment. But what really begins to sway consumers: Tesla’s all-electric vehicles are far cheaper to operate and maintain than their gas-guzzling siblings from Detroit and Tokyo. In comparison, the products from every other automaker—with the exception of Nissan’s all-electric Leaf—are more expensive to operate, damaging to human health, and contribute to climate change. (You can’t commit a Hollywood-style suicide in a Tesla with an open window in a closed garage.)

Because Tesla’s models are currently too expensive for the average joe, call the recent dealership shenanigans a pre-emptive strike. But pre-emptive or not, dealerships, their political allies, and shortsighted dopes like Anderson and his cronies are pulling out all the stops in their desperate efforts to stop Tesla in its tracks. Fortunately, Iowans can purchase Tesla vehicles online—like the rest of the country (helpful for residents of Arizona, New Jersey, Maryland, Texas, and Virginia, where sales of Tesla vehicles are either banned or restricted).

If you think auto dealers are panicking now, wait until Tesla introduces its much-anticipated Model 3 in about three years. Slated to start at roughly $35K, the “everyman’s Tesla” will bring the fight between old-school car dealers and Tesla’s superior alternative to a head. Both dealership owners and auto manufacturers will be frantically spinning their 1988 Rolodexes to reach out to any politician owing them a favor.

But fear not, tree huggers and lovers of future-tech. Tesla will probably get the last laugh. Legacy Luddites like Anderson, Steier, Cownie, and McCoy are a dying breed. Their protectionist attitudes and policies, sustained at the expense of their fellow state citizens, will soon lie in the dinosaur boneyard, just like those 12 mile-per-gallon Hummers that are no longer for sale.

curtsig2 - trans
Curt Robbins

[Also see my response to blog post commenter “bob” and my original Time for Tesla post. If you agree with any of the above, send Bruce Anderson a Tweet at @IADA_Bruce and let him know your feelings.]


Curt Robbins is author of the following books from Amazon Kindle:

You can follow him on Twitter at @CurtRobbins, read his AV-related blog posts at rAVe Publications, and view his photos on Flickr.

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3 thoughts on “Tesla Bigot: IADA’s Bruce Anderson

  1. So according to this decisions all expo, conference & trade shows should now follow this decisions and not be allowed. Be careful what you wish for.

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    • Hi Bob,

      I’m confused. Can you elaborate? I honestly don’t understand exactly what you’re getting at. I enjoy—and seek out—an intelligent and honest dialog regarding any consumer tech topic. But can you clarify your comment?

      In terms of being careful about what I wish for: I wish simply that a disruptive, game-changing company like Tesla would be permitted to at least demonstrate its technology first-hand. It’s sad enough that this company can’t actually sell in the state of Iowa due to…I know, I’ve said it so many times before…antiquated laws from a bygone era. Those laws served 1950s-80s America really well. But no more. (Technical point: Anyone, in any state, can purchase Tesla’s vehicles from its website.)

      Please note that I’m not suggesting Buick, Ford, or Hyundai be prohibited from conducting test drives. I believe healthy, fair competition is what has made America great. But to prohibit an American company as promising as Tesla from simply demonstrating its product to prospective customers is really Neanderthal thinking. I want the voters of Iowa—and any state in this great union—to be able to test drive, purchase, sell, and work on vehicles involving a wide variety of technologies from a wide range of companies.

      Politicians like to cite patriotism. Ok. How patriotic is to allow Toyota (Japanese), Kia (Korean), and Range Rover (Indian) to conduct test drives on American soil, while prohibiting Silicon Valley-based Tesla from not only selling cars, but even test driving them? Tesla employs 6,000 hard-working Americans, and is expanding rapidly. I’m not suggesting Tesla deserves any special treatment. However, for a collective government to state that it’s pro-emerging technology and pro-sustainable energy and then oppose—at any level: Municipal, state, or federal—an American company embracing these very principles is, well, both illogical and hypocritical. Not to mention short-sighted.

      Now, back to your point of me being careful what I wish for. I wish that every one of my fellow Americans could understand, test, and have the ability to purchase any available personal transportation vehicle on the market. Especially if it comes from an American company. No sane politician would disagree with me so far.

      I’ll do my best to help people understand electric car technology and their product options (that’s what I do for a living). But if consumers know what they want and can’t even get it, how well are any of us serving them?

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  2. Somebody has to protect the American car-buying public from the dangerous rush of teenage testosterone induced by one of these so called “test drives”. It has been medically proven that test-driving a Tesla Model S is a “gateway drug” for hard-core practical electric vehicles. We have to draw the line somewhere. It’s like rock-n-roll. Think of the children.

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