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Tesla Underground: Texas Franchise Rules Make Model S Owners Skirt The Law Page 2


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]

Enlarge Photo

Nor are they allowed to discuss service problems or make appointments with Model S owners: All such communications must be routed through Tesla HQ in California. 

The factory service rep there, after talking with the owner, then calls the Texas service center to authorize whatever work needs to be done.

How to buy a Model S

To get around the franchise laws, all Model S sales to Texas residents must be handled as out-of-state transactions.

This has financial repercussions; in some cases, it's harder to get financing for out-of-state sales. "I paid a higher interest rate because of that," says Holt.

MORE: Does The Tesla Model S Electric Car Pollute More Than An SUV?

"If I'd wanted to lease one, I'd have had to fly to Chicago to sign the papers," says another Texas Model S owner, Dallas orthopedic surgeon Andrew Clavenna.

"And even then, I wouldn't have been able to qualify for the buyback program."

Like any Model S purchaser, a Texan buys the car direct from the factory. But once the car is purchased, Texans don't get the full Tesla treatment.

Fanboy status required?

For a time,  cars were delivered by third-party contractors, rather than Tesla employees, who typically give new owners a 3-4-hour orientation when they deliver the car.

Not in Texas. "A couple of dudes showed up in the delivery truck and handed me the keys," reports Brad Holt. "They knew nothing about the car."

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]

Enlarge Photo

"If I hadn't been such a fanboy and already knew a lot about the Model S, I would have been totally screwed."

For non-fanboy Texas owners, Tesla offers an online video orientation.

Holt also reports that his car arrived covered with road grime. Teslas delivered in other states typically arrive freshly detailed by the local delivery or service center.

More recently, however, some Texas Model S owners have been picking up their cars at the service centers.

No registration

Over the Labor Day weekend, Andrew Clavenna picked up his P85+, freshly detailed, at his local service center--and got the full new-owner orientation.

MORE: Life With Tesla Model S: Pushing Range Limits In 60-kWh Car

A service center pick-up is no big deal if you live in Houston or Austin. But how about the poor guy in El Paso?  That's a 600-mile trek--with two recharges required to get home.

Whether delivered or picked up, a Texas Model S arrives with a temporary registration, no plates, uninspected, and with the sales tax not yet paid.

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]

Enlarge Photo

"That was a hectic day, getting all that stuff taken care of," recalls Holt.

In addition, he had to pay the $5,000-plus sales tax out of pocket, whereas Model S owners in other states can often finance the sales tax as part of their new-car loan.

Change in 2015?

The Texas legislature will reconvene in January 2015.

In the meantime, will Elon Musk and Tesla drop the political cash  necessary to sway legislators? 

Might a rising tide of public opinion, fostered by enthusiastic model S owners, have any effect?

Will Texas legislators get a chance to actually drive a Model S? (In North Carolina, both Governor Pat McCrory and Speaker of the House Thom Tillis took Model Ses for test drives.)

Finally, will Texas legislators acknowledge the hypocrisy of beating the drum for free enterprise and against government regulation--while simultaneously supporting regulations that inhibit that very free enterprise?

Stay tuned.

Perhaps buyers of the Tesla Model X electric crossover, due to enter volume production late next year, will fare better.

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