Tesla Testifies In Texas, Takes On State's Auto Dealers Over Stores Page 2

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Elon Musk

Elon Musk

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He has urged his Twitter followers to support Tesla's fight in Texas, and in a memo to employees leaked to Forbes last week, he wrote:

It is crazy that Texas, which prides itself on individual freedom, has the most restrictive laws in the country protecting the big auto dealer groups from competition.

If the people of Texas knew how bad this was, they would be up in arms, because they are getting ripped off by the auto dealers as a result (not saying they are all bad – there a few good ones, but many are extremely heinous).

"For everyone in Texas that ever got screwed by an auto dealer," Musk concludes, "this is your opportunity for payback."

For the record, Musk was rather more measured in his words in a follow-up interview with Forbes.

The general counsel for TADA, Karen Phillips, called Musk's leaked e-mail "inappropriate" in an article in trade journal Automotive News.

The legislators of her state should be able to "see beyond the number of people at a hearing," she said, and simply focus on the existing law and its merits.

The e-mail, she sniffed, "shows the type of person we're dealing with."

Texas Tesla plant?

Musk also dangled the possibility that Tesla would consider the state for a second manufacturing plant, at whatever point it decided it needed such a facility.

The company's current facility in Fremont, California, is largely empty outside of the single Model S assembly line.

When the Fremont plant was jointly operated by General Motors and Toyota, it produced several hundred thousand vehicles a year; Tesla is targeting 20,000 to 25,000 cars this year.

In other words, any second Tesla plant seems likely to be many years in the future.

Musk suggested, however, that such a plant might be a suitable home for his vision of a future all-electric pickup truck with the "performance of a sports car" but higher cargo capacity and towing ability than a similar truck powered by a gasoline or diesel engine.

Skeptical legislators

Tesla owners & supporters gather in Statehouse in Austin to support company [photo: John Griswell]

Tesla owners & supporters gather in Statehouse in Austin to support company [photo: John Griswell]

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Meanwhile, the act requires a vote of two-thirds of the members of each house to become law.

While more than 40 people testified for the bill, in support of Tesla, committee members questioned whether there might be ways to further restrict the bill.

Among suggestions was the idea that Tesla would have to convert over to franchised dealers once it reached a certain level of sales.

After the hearing, Musk seemed to acknowledge that the bill might not succeed, telling the Texas Tribune that if it didn't, the company would return next session.

[Sincere thanks to Tesla owner and photographer John Griswell, who allowed us to use his photos from the hearings.]

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