Tesla can't sell its electric cars directly to customers in Texas, but CEO Elon Musk still has ambitious plans for the state.
As he often does, Musk dropped a bombshell on Twitter last week, announcing that he plans to build a test track for his "Hyperloop" transportation concept in the Lone Star State.
However, some Tesla-watchers suggest that the announcement could be more than an attention-grabbing stunt from a man known for ... well, attention-grabbing stunts.
The Hyperloop test track could possibly be Musk's latest attempt to crack the Texas ban on Tesla direct sales, according to The Car Connection.
Concept drawings for Elon Musk’s 800-mph Hyperloop
Musk specifically tweeted that he will build a Hyperloop test track "for companies and student teams to test out their pods," and said only that it would "most likely" be located in Texas.
The Hyperloop concept uses tubes suspended from pylons above the ground. Pods float in the tubes on a cushion of air, and are propelled forward by magnetic levitation.
This low-friction environment is supposed to make speeds up to 800 mph possible, albeit in conditions that sound a tad claustrophobic.
Since introducing the Hyperloop concept in August 2013, Musk hasn't made any effort to develop it himself. Some research has been undertaken by an independent company, Hyperloop Transportation Technologies.
So why is Musk suddenly interested in building a Hyperloop test track? And why in Texas?
That's where the assumed connection between the Hyperloop and Texas' direct-sales ban comes in.
Tesla Store Los Angeles [photo: Misha Bruk / MBH Architects]
The state recently missed out on Tesla's battery-cell "gigafactory," which went to Nevada instead. So another high-profile project attached to media darling Elon Musk could make a powerful bargaining chip with lawmakers.
In fact, Musk has already tried the tactic once.
In his ultimately fruitless effort to prevent legislation banning Tesla direct sales, Musk dangled the possibility of a second Tesla assembly plant to be located in Texas--which would build an electric pickup truck, no less.
Selling cars in Texas is more than a point of pride for Tesla.
Despite its reputation as the home of Big Oil, Texas is one of the most electric-car friendly states in the country, and the state represents a meaningful part of the overall plug-in vehicle market.
Whether Musk can overcome the entrenched interests of traditional franchised dealers by offering up research and jobs testing a totally new transportation concept--one that might cut the number of long-distance vehicle trips if it works--remains to be seen.