EV Enemies: Michigan Luddites

I’ve written at length about Tesla Motors and its ongoing fight with several state governments and automobile dealer associations for the right to sell and simply test drive its vehicles. Unfortunately, a bill that would prohibit Tesla from selling its svelte all-electric cars in the state of Michigan has passed. It is currently sitting on Governor Rick Snyder’s desk, awaiting his signature to become law.

Tesla on October 16 published a blog post, A Raw Deal in Michigan, in response to this pending legislation. While model s and solar panelsattention needs to be focused on soliciting Gov. Snyder for his veto of the bill, preventing HB5606 from becoming law, it’s also critical for electric vehicle fans, environmentalists, and progressive thinking consumers to focus on the source of this legislation: The Michigan Automobile Dealers Association (MADA).

Today’s blog post is my email letter to MADA’s president, Randy Wise, its Executive Vice President, Terry Burns, and Summer Kniss, the group’s Communications Director. If you’re concerned about climate change, true open market capitalism, or simply a fan of electric cars, I encourage you to contact Michigan Governor Snyder (his Twitter addy is @onetoughnerd) and urge him to act in a pro-consumer (pro-voter!), logical manner.

But don’t stop there: MADA and other state automobile associations (like the Iowa Automobile Dealers Association and its president Bruce Anderson) are working to block Tesla and impede fair competition and consumer rights across the country. Let them know that crony capitalism and playing the role of the Luddite is anti-consumer and anti-American—and will eventually put them out of business.

curtsig2 - trans
Curt Robbins

[10/23 update: On 10/21, Michigan Governor Rick Snyder signed into law Michigan’s HB5606, which outlaws the direct sales model of Tesla and other electric car manufacturers.]


Dear Ms. Kniss, Mr. Burns, and Mr. Wise:

Governor Rick Snyder is garnering the attention of electric car proponents in the state of Michigan—and nationwide—who are attempting to persuade him to not sign HB5606 into law. While Gov. Snyder is the current focus, the genesis of this anti-consumer and unfair bill was your organization, the Michigan Automobile Dealers Association.

nil

Randy Wise, MADA president (2014)

Social media is allowing consumers to learn of such crony capitalism in real time and to counter strike with more force than even lobbying groups and your organization can muster. In the end, government serves the people—not corporations or non-profit associations like yours. Citizens (and voters) are learning about and craving all-electric personal transportation that delivers to them a cleaner environment and less expensive fuel and maintenance.

I understand, and even theoretically support, an organization like MADA that represents auto dealers to serve their best interests. However, it’s sad, unfair, and pathetic that your group must penalize consumers to accomplish its overly self-serving, anti-consumer goals.

Dealerships across America are intimidated by Tesla Motors. They may cite how they don’t like the direct-to-consumer sales model of this innovative company, but their true fear is Tesla’s vehicles themselves. They’re disruptive and, arguably, a paradigm shift. Your members sell products based on a 155-year-old technology (internal combustion). They’re loud, expensive to fuel, relatively slow, and contribute to climate change. Meanwhile, Tesla’s vehicles are the opposite. And your members don’t have anything to compete.

Consumers are becoming increasingly savvy when it comes to their personal transportation options. Efforts of groups like yours and the Iowa Automobile Dealers Association (headed by another legacy Luddite, Bruce Anderson)—while they may cause temporary setbacks for companies like Tesla and headaches for progressive-minded consumers—will not stop the electric car movement. Nor will they stop Tesla Motors.

You and your members are desperate. Instead of competing fairly with Tesla and similar 21st century companies, you and your affiliate dealerships want to call on political friends to outlaw them! Your members know that their products can’t compete with those from Tesla.

Maybe the service you should be providing to your members is recommending that their source manufacturers, like Ford, GM, and Toyota, hire forward-thinking engineers as CEOs instead of MBAs, accountants, and lawyers. Because without better vision and strategy, you—and your members—are destined for the dinosaur graveyard (along with those 12 MPG Hummers no longer for sale).

Regards,

Curt Robbins
Technical Writer / Author
https://middleclasstech.wordpress.com
Stow, Ohio


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.

Advertisements

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.