Another brick falls as Tesla fights to practice its direct-to-consumer business model. A Massachusetts high court has thrown out a lawsuit seeking to block the electric car company from selling vehicles the Tesla way in the state. The Massachusetts State Automobile Dealers Association, along with two dealers, claimed that Tesla was in violation of a law that protects affiliated dealerships from oppressive practices from automakers.
Our friends at Engadget, tech-obsessed sister site of Autoblog, have taken an in-depth look at the reason why it's so difficult for Tesla to sell its cars directly to consumers, the same way that Apple, for instance, can sell you an iPad at an Apple Store. As you're probably aware, the whole sordid affair can be traced back to dealer franchise laws, which vary dramatically state to state, all with the stated goal of protecting your local neighborhood car dealers from unfair competition.
Last week, it looked like Missouri would join the list of states where Tesla Motors would not be allowed to sell its all-electric vehicles directly to consumers. Without warning, language was inserted into a bill about off-road vehicles what would have prevented direct sales in the state. Tesla called it a "sneak attack" and tried to get supporters to let lawmakers know the law was a bad idea.
In a special broadcast to dealers yesterday, General Motors' sales chief, Mark LaNeve, explained that the automaker would buy back unsold new vehicles and parts from dealerships slated to be phased out by the end of 2010, but GM wouldn't pay off dealers for their franchises.
June 1, 2009 is turning into the equivalent of General Motors' D-Day, and every day seems to bring new events that are being planned in advance of it. GM had more than 6,000 dealerships at the end of last year, and in the initial viability plan it offered to the government, the automaker pledged to close 25% of those over the next five years. As with the rest of the plan, the Auto Task Force said "That isn't enough."
A paucity of hot product, and an unintentional buyer boycott has claimed the last Mercury-only dealership. Dealerships trading singularly in Mercury products were always few and far between; the brand was usually paired with Lincoln, but Community Motor Company in Canonsburg, PA has sold only new Mercurys for 57 years. The small family run dealership will continue to sell used vehicles, which have seen the franchise through even as yearly sales of new Mercurys have dropped to one third of their
U.S. biodiesel research company GreenFuel Technologies has licensed its process to produce biodiesel from algae to South African company De Beers Fuel fully two years before it will be ready for commercial application. That's not really so bad if De Beers want to be out in front and are willing to take a gamble on commercially unproven technology themselves.