The direct online sales model used by Tesla Motors has ignited a vigorous discussion--to say the least--over the state laws that protect franchised dealers in the U.S.

Now the participants in that conversation have a new data point to consider in their debates a piece of electric-car news from Japan.

DON'T MISS: Plug-In Electric Car Sales In Mar: Leaf Surpasses Volt In Total Sales Since 2010

The BMW i3 is now available in the country online through Amazon.

So Japanese drivers can now buy a car from the same source many where people buy discounted books, cheap electronics, and clothing--and a million or so other items as well.

The date on the announcement posted on BMW's Japanese press site--April 1--had us a bit suspicious, but a BMW spokesman subsequently confirmed the Amazon sales scheme to Yahoo News.

BMW i3 on

BMW i3 on

There are presently 46 dealers selling the i3 in Japan, but BMW hopes online sales will boost its visibility, the unnamed spokesman said in Tokyo.

He went on to say that BMW could use traffic to its Amazon i3 store to "research potential customer groups" who may be interested in the company's products.

MORE: 2014 BMW i3: First Drive Of BMW's Radical New Electric Car (Oct 2013)

However, purchasing an i3 on Amazon isn't a simple one-click job.

After placing the car in their virtual shopping carts, customers will have to wait for a call from BMW, and produce documents showing they have a parking space and access to a charging station.

BMW i3 on

BMW i3 on

The website lists both the all-electric and REx range-extended models, with options for purchase or a five-year lease.

While it's certainly more convenient than schlepping to a dealership, it's hard to imagine getting a full appraisal of a new car purely by clicking and scrolling.

That's especially true of the i3, which--with its electric powertrain, to its unusual styling and eco-friendly interior trim--is about as radically different from a conventional gasoline car as you can get.

[hat tip: Brian Henderson]


Follow GreenCarReports on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+.