Texas

Tesla takes direct sales message to the people at party conventions

A Tesla Model S on display in the company's University Park show room in Fort Worth.
A Tesla Model S on display in the company's University Park show room in Fort Worth. Star-Telegram

The electric car company Tesla is novel in many ways. It’s a new company trying to sell a new vision of the automobile, and it sells its cars in a different way: directly to consumers, not through a dealership.

But in Texas, state law prohibits car companies from selling cars directly. Customers have to go through an independent dealership instead.

For three years, Tesla has been trying without success to change that by lobbying Austin. Now it's lobbying party activists.

At the Texas Republican Party convention in Dallas last month, the exhibitors’ hall had all the usual booths promoting conservative causes and candidates. Smack dab in the middle was something less usual: A cherry red Tesla Model S.

Tesla Fort Worth store coordinator Jesi Hoolihan ticks off the attributes of the $70,000 car: the huge flat screen console in the dashboard, the roomy interior, the way the car plays music when you open the car door.

Detailing a car’s features is about all Tesla employees can do in Texas, even in their own show rooms. They can’t actually sell the cars or negotiate pricing. If a would-be customer wants to take a Tesla out for a test drive in Texas, a special permit is required. Full story including audio at KERA.org.

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