On June 5, a Tesla Motors fan mounted what seemed like another quixotic effort to support Tesla in selling its electric cars directly to buyers.
The petition at WhiteHouse.gov that he or she launched required 100,000 people to sign it within a month, by Friday, July 5.
Suddenly, it seems that petition may actually get the needed support--helped along by a Friday evening e-mail from the company itself.
The wording is simple:
We petition the Obama Administration to allow Tesla Motors to sell directly to consumers in all 50 states.
States should not be allowed to prevent Tesla Motors from selling cars directly to customers. The state legislators are trying to unfairly protect automobile dealers in their states from competition. Tesla is providing competition, which is good for consumers.
Early on Friday, June 29, the petition had garnered roughly 23,000 signatures in a bit more than three weeks.
Friday evening, when Tesla sent out an e-mail urging its supporters to sign, the total had risen to 36,000 signatures.
The next morning, the number was up to 40,000.
And today, Sunday, at 10:20 am, it had soared past 69,000.
If signatures continue to accumulate at anything close to that rate, the goal of 100,000 should be achievable by this coming Friday.
This is not the first time such a petition has been attempted on WhiteHouse.gov; a similar effort in April failed to gain the needed signatures, and is no longer live on the site.
But Tesla's e-mail obviously gave the new petition a big boost. The company wrote on Friday evening:
Tesla Store - Portland OR
As you may know, Tesla is under attack from a number of car dealer associations in various states who are challenging Tesla's right to directly serve our customers at Tesla Stores and Service Centers.
Their efforts are protectionist in nature and infringe on the right of the consumer to choose how they purchase and service their vehicle.
An anonymous Tesla enthusiast created a White House petition to allow direct sales of cars to consumers in all states. We want to thank the tens of thousands of fans who have voiced their support and have already signed the petition.
We want this petition to succeed. For that to happen, the petition needs 64,000 more signatures by next Friday, July 5, 2013.
Please act now and take a moment to register, sign and forward the petition today!
If the requisite number of signatures are acquired, the petition then has to be evaluated by White House staff.
The question then becomes: What on earth will they do with it?
50 sets of rules
Given that laws governing auto sales and franchised dealers are enacted at the state level--they vary in detail among all 50 states--it's not clear that a national law would be politically viable.
Elon Musk signs new 2013 Tesla Model S at Tesla Store opening, Austin, Texas [photo: John Griswell]
Auto dealers and their state organizations are large political contributors and visible local businesses with high profiles in many communities.
If a national law were proposed--and passed--it would present an interesting test for elected representatives.
But if would also surely be tested in court. And the current Supreme Court appears to favor individual state regulations over sweeping national laws.
Worth political capital?
More than that, it's highly debatable whether this is an issue on which the White House would choose to expend limited political capital.
But it the petition succeeds in crossing the threshold, it will add another layer of interest to the ongoing battle between Tesla and auto dealers.
What do you think will happen if the petition gets 100,000 signatures?
Leave us your thoughts in the Comments below.