Tesla owners & supporters gather in Statehouse in Austin to support company [photo: John Griswell]Enlarge Photo
Last week, the New York State Senate and Assembly adjourned until January without acting on two bills pushed by state auto dealers that would have made it illegal to register a Tesla store in New York state.
And yesterday, the North Carolina legislature backed off on a similar measure banning the sale of cars directly from the factory, the Tesla business model.
The North Carolina law, also backed by the auto dealers lobby, could have even made it illegal for Tesla to send e-mails to potential customers in the state.
According to the Raleigh News & Observer, a new version of the North Carolina auto-franchise bill was approved Tuesday with the anti-Tesla provisions stripped out.
Although the original bill had been passed unanimously by the Senate, House leadership was apparently cool to the proposal.
It may or may nor be a coincidence that the Speaker of the House, Thom Tillis, had taken a Model S for a test drive, courtesy of Tesla lobbyists. So did Governor Pat McCrory.
Although action on the New York bills has been merely postponed till January, the North Carolina anti-Tesla bill is dead.
"No, we're not going to bring that back," said Senator Bill Rabon, according to the News Observer.
Tesla's director of public policy, James Chen, was asked whether the test drives helped to make Tesla's case.
"I'm sure," he replied.
Perhaps Tesla should make Model S test drives for lawmakers the cornerstone of its defense against state auto-dealer associations.
Dealer groups have been lobbying in numerous states, with varying degrees of success, to shut down Tesla's factory-direct sales model, which they appear to see as a long-term threat to their existence.
Elon Musk Shows Akio Toyoda 2011 Tesla Roadster Sport 2.5Enlarge Photo
As anyone who's ever driven a Tesla understands, the car has a powerful visceral appeal. Put it in the hands of the right person, and good things can happen--fast.
Another example: according to Wired magazine, was Toyota's $50 million investment in Tesla, including the startup company's agreement to purchase the Toyota factory in Fremont, California, where it now builds the Model S.
That deal came just weeks after Toyota president Akio Toyoda stopped by at Tesla CEO Elon Musk's house to have breakfast.
Spying a Tesla Roadster in the driveway, Toyoda, a former race driver, demanded a test drive.
He came back exhilarated--and the rest is history.
How many Model S cars would it take to give every governor and state legislator a test drive over the next year?
David Noland is a Tesla Model S owner and freelance writer who lives north of New York City.