After letting techies, greens and early-adopters worry that he might pull out of New Jersey, Tesla founder Elon Musk says in a blog post this afternoon that he's going to convert the company's two North Jersey mall stores into "galleries" that promote his electric Tesla cars without actually selling them, much as Tesla already does in another state he finds hostile, Texas.
Plus, Musk threatened to investigate "judicial" remedies against Gov. Christie's administration, after the state beefed up rules designed to keep independent, manufacturer-franchised dealers -- not company-owned stores like Tesla -- selling cars in New Jersey. Tesla backers say the state is bowing to the political clout of the dealers instead of helping consumers buy cars with less hassle. Read Musk's post here.
I asked the mechanics at my local independent shop -- Ponte's on US 202 in Delaware -- whether new-car dealers -- their competition -- deserve to live. Yes, was the surprising consensus: Car manufacturers care about selling new cars. They don't do much to keep parts flowing once the next model year arrives. For example, Chrysler parts from its immediate pre-bankruptcy years are already scarce. Because of their profitable service units, dealers fight to keep companies producing good used-car parts. Eliminate the dealers, and not only are car prices likely to go up (without competing dealers to bid them lower), but it will also become more expensive to fix used cars and keep them on the road, they predicted.