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Transportation Politics

White House Punts On Petition To Allow Tesla Direct Sales 382

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the look-at-those-hands-wave dept.
First time accepted submitter neanderslob (1207704) writes Last Friday, over a year after the petition gained the required signatures for a response, the White House rejected a We the People petition to "Allow Tesla Motors to sell directly to consumers in all 50 states." The letter went on to defend the administration by citing their initiatives "in promoting vehicle efficiency." In response, Tesla is firing back, blasting the White House for a lack of leadership on the issue and stating "138,469 people signed the petition asking the White House to allow Tesla Motors to sell directly to consumers in all 50 states. More than a year later, at 7.30pm EST on Friday as most of America prepared for the weekend, the White House released its disappointing response to those people. Rather than seize an opportunity to promote innovation and support the first successful American car company to be started in more than a century, the White House issued a response that was even more timid than its rejection of a petition to begin construction of a Death Star." There's a legal issue here: the executive can't just wave state law aside. But they could suggest Congress write new laws instead of just noting that Congress would need to take action.
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White House Punts On Petition To Allow Tesla Direct Sales

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  • What? (Score:5, Funny)

    by just_another_sean (919159) on Tuesday July 15, 2014 @12:38PM (#47458125) Homepage Journal

    An internet petition that went nowhere? Unpossible!

    Seriously, the White House petition site is just PR. I'm no Obama hater but anyone who thinks that would ever be an effective way to influence policy is probably still sitting on the edge of their seat waiting for Firefly to come back on television.

    • Re:What? (Score:5, Funny)

      by sunking2 (521698) on Tuesday July 15, 2014 @12:39PM (#47458149)
      The Death Star proved that. Overwhelming support. Brushed under the rug. This administration is a joke.
      • by click2005 (921437) *

        No Death Star so I tried to Kickstarter one.. how the hell do I exploit this for lols?

        • I don't know, but I think a libertarian just got his wings.
        • by gstoddart (321705)

          No Death Star so I tried to Kickstarter one.. how the hell do I exploit this for lols?

          When you build it, point it at Washington. ;-)

      • Re:What? (Score:5, Informative)

        by Ralph Wiggam (22354) on Tuesday July 15, 2014 @12:47PM (#47458265) Homepage

        Did you read the response? It's great.

        https://petitions.whitehouse.gov/response/isnt-petition-response-youre-looking

        "Why would we spend countless taxpayer dollars on a Death Star with a fundamental flaw that can be exploited by a one-man starship?"

        • Lazy government contractors didn't even bother to install blast shielding with the ray shielding.

      • Re:What? (Score:5, Interesting)

        by roman_mir (125474) on Tuesday July 15, 2014 @01:46PM (#47458949) Homepage Journal

        But this would be the first time that a petition would actually demand that the USA federal government actually does what it is SUPPOSED to do, to force the USA government actually to apply the interstate commerce law correctly.... This is what the interstate commerce clause is meant for: use federal power to force States to stop anti-business practices that hurt businesses and people when States attempt to destroy competition by preventing businesses and people from engaging in interstate commerce. States are not supposed to be able to prevent businesses and individuals from competing with one another, that is the purpose of the federal interstate commerce law. Not to force people to buy products that they would not buy without government force applied to them by to prevent States from destroying free market capitalism, to prevent States from denying competition.

        Of-course forever now the federal government and States engaged in anti-competitive practices that they accuse businesses of, which in reality are the product of the government corruption and collusion. Mandating and requiring business licenses for people to engage in commerce is the anti-competitive practice that needs to be stopped. Mandating and requiring that businesses abide by government rules and regulations is the anti-competitive practice that needs to be stopped. Income taxes are not only a horrible economic policy, it is also a way to segregate businesses into those, that have access to government officials and those that cannot compete because they are not getting special treatment.

        Basically this petition is the first petition that I hear about that actually demands the USA government to behave Constitutionally where it concerns trade and business and individual freedoms. Of-course the government will pay 0 attention to it.

        • Re:What? (Score:5, Insightful)

          by sconeu (64226) on Tuesday July 15, 2014 @02:04PM (#47459133) Homepage Journal

          Thank you. For once, this would be a legitimate use of the Interstate Commerce Clause.

          Clearly, this *is* the purview of Congress, not the President, but all that the White House needs to do to make the petitioners happy is have one of its pet Congresscritters introduce legislation.

          It seems to me that the state regulations banning such sales are an intrusion upon the prerogatives of Congress.

    • If I write a petition asking for something that the President is passionate about, I would expect that I'd get a major response and it would be used to drive policy change.

      Otherwise, stamp a form letter in response and move on.
      • Re:What? (Score:5, Funny)

        by slashdice (3722985) on Tuesday July 15, 2014 @12:53PM (#47458335)
        Like...

        Dear Mr. President, Please play lots of golf.

        Dear Mr. President, You seem overworked. Please take another vacation.

        Dear Mr. President, Please give another speech calling Republicans meanies.

        • by raymorris (2726007) on Tuesday July 15, 2014 @02:00PM (#47459089)

          The only president of the last twenty years who is generally considered to have been reasonably good is Clinton. What did Clinton do? Not much. Pretty much, he entered the White House during a time of economic growth and got a blowjob. For that (doing nothing) he's considered to be better than Bush Jr. or Obama. Before Clinton, George HW Bush wasn't bad and what did he do? Domestically, pretty much nothing. He was all foreign policy - START I, Noriega, beginning NAFTA.

          Obama's legacy probably would be better if he'd play even more golf, throw another blowout party, and stop messing with the country.

    • ... waiting for Firefly to come back on television.

      Wait, what? Firefly isnt coming back???

      • by Xenx (2211586)
        I'm sure it's still coming! I keep hearing stuff about Netflix looking to bring it back...
    • People forget that United States is a Democratic Republic. Not a democracy.

      Not all popular idea's will go out or should go out, just because the majority wills it. The point of a Democratic Republic, is the Citizens vote for people who will make the decisions, then these people should take a look at all the factors and make one.

      However this hasn't been working well, because of the Party system, and too many voters are getting stuck on party ideals and less on voting for the person who would take your intere

      • by thaylin (555395)
        I wish more people would get this. All those who blame "activist judges" for ruling unconstitutional laws unconstitutional just because it was voted on by a direct democracy on the ballot make me weep in bed for this country.
    • I'm no Obama hater but anyone who thinks that would ever be an effective way to influence policy is probably still sitting on the edge of their seat waiting for Firefly to come back on television.

      If you recognize that, then why aren't you an Obama hater? This is emblematic of Obama: make a great public show about being a man of the people, and then surreptitiously ignore them.

      I.e., he's playing us all for saps.

  • For us dummies.... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by AudioEfex (637163) on Tuesday July 15, 2014 @12:39PM (#47458145)
    ....can someone briefly summarize like we are in third grade (OK, maybe junior high) why Tesla can't sell their vehicles anywhere they damn well please? I don't follow car news so I don't know (and I'm asking here because I figure I am not the only one).
    • by Andrew Sterian (182) <andrewsterian@yahoo.com> on Tuesday July 15, 2014 @12:44PM (#47458209) Homepage

      Not an easy read but a good backgrounder on this, which also seems to be a Department of Justice advocation of direct manufacturer sales:

      http://www.justice.gov/atr/pub... [justice.gov]

    • by Motard (1553251)

      Most states, prodded perhaps by dealer associations, have forbidden auto manufacturers from selling directly to the public. New York, Ohio and Texas have been among the most prominent battlegrounds so far.

      • No need to qualify (Score:5, Informative)

        by sjbe (173966) on Tuesday July 15, 2014 @01:03PM (#47458483)

        Most states, prodded perhaps by dealer associations, have forbidden auto manufacturers from selling directly to the public.

        There is no "perhaps" about it. Auto dealer associations are entirely the reason - no need to qualify your statement. They are parasitic middlemen and they know they have a good deal going. They cost both customers and the automakers money. They should have to compete and provide value just like any other business. There should be no legal prohibition against me buying a car directly from Tesla, GM, Toyota or any other car maker if I want. If the dealer can provide me extra value then fine but if they cannot (and most cannot) then they should disappear like the obsolete businesses they are. There is no rational justification I have heard for protecting their business model at my expense. Perhaps you know of a good reason but frankly for me if auto dealers disappear tomorrow it won't be too soon.

        • by TechyImmigrant (175943) on Tuesday July 15, 2014 @01:26PM (#47458759) Journal

          Most states, prodded perhaps by dealer associations, have forbidden auto manufacturers from selling directly to the public.

          There is no "perhaps" about it. Auto dealer associations are entirely the reason - no need to qualify your statement. They are parasitic middlemen and they know they have a good deal going. They cost both customers and the automakers money. They should have to compete and provide value just like any other business. There should be no legal prohibition against me buying a car directly from Tesla, GM, Toyota or any other car maker if I want. If the dealer can provide me extra value then fine but if they cannot (and most cannot) then they should disappear like the obsolete businesses they are. There is no rational justification I have heard for protecting their business model at my expense. Perhaps you know of a good reason but frankly for me if auto dealers disappear tomorrow it won't be too soon.

          Yup. It rather like being required to head to your nearest brick-and-mortar travel agency to book a flight and hotel and pay them their middleman fee, rather than going to united.com and tripadvisor,com (or whatever your preferred vendor is).

        • by houghi (78078)

          On the plus side, it is good to see that the governement stands behind the ones they represent. Ok, it is not the gereral public, but still.

        • by cdrudge (68377)

          There should be no legal prohibition against me buying a car directly from Tesla, GM, Toyota or any other car maker if I want.

          Is the opposition coming just from the dealers? Or is it coming from the established manufacturers by way of dealers?

          Many industries sell only through distributors, dealers, or otherwise "authorized" retail outlets. The company I work for is in the HVAC industry. We only sell to our dealers and never directly to the end consumer. I don't know of any major HVAC manufacturer that sel

    • by Raseri (812266) on Tuesday July 15, 2014 @12:48PM (#47458277)
      Car dealerships form extremely powerful lobbies in most (all?) states, and have purchased laws in most (all?) states banning the direct sale of vehicles from the manufacturer to the consumer. This, obviously, is a protectionist racket that serves no purpose but to line the pockets of said dealers. I'm not aware of any other consumer good with such a restriction (though I will grant that such a thing is possible and I simply am not aware of it).
    • Traditional car companies see Tesla as a threat. They see Tesla is using a different sales model, namely that Tesla sells their cars directly to the consumer instead of using a dealership, and then the big guys use this difference to try and block Tesla from selling cars by influencing state legislatures (with things like money) to pass laws that say new cars can only be be sold through a franchised car dealership, not directly. The car companies know that all the new US car companies in the last century
      • Traditional car companies see Tesla as a threat..

        That's the biggest problem/misconception about the whole debate. These laws were put in place well before Tesla ever existed. Any car company, regardless of name or technology, has always had to deal them. Direct sales itself is the threat. If people want change, they need to get off of the notion that this is about Tesla and learn a little more of the history behind the law. They need to listen carefully to those who make arguments in favor of these laws. Then you can make a rational case against it. Argui

        • The problem with your description is that some of the laws Tesla is now fighting are recent legislation or regulations. For example, in New Jersey, the regulation prohibiting Tesla from performing direct sales was only put in place on March 11, 2014 by the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission (composed of political appointees of the Governor). Likewise in New York, they are looking at passing legislation to ban the way Tesla is selling vehicles.

          NY dealers have Tesla ban in sights [nypost.com]

          It is/was legal but be
    • The real reason (Score:5, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 15, 2014 @12:54PM (#47458359)

      The real reason that the dealerships care isn't about Tesla at all.

      Dealerships have worked to create laws that forbid car manufacturers from selling direct to consumers. And if Tesla gets around that, then Ford, GM, etc. will be hot on their tracks and dealerships will see significant impact from this. In the age of the internet anyone would become finally able to purchase goods from the car manufacturers. Their way of life would die off.

      That's why they fight Tesla like the fate of the world is at stake.

    • by geekmux (1040042)

      ....can someone briefly summarize like we are in third grade (OK, maybe junior high) why Tesla can't sell their vehicles anywhere they damn well please? I don't follow car news so I don't know (and I'm asking here because I figure I am not the only one).

      I'm still struggling to understand why this is a problem with the current offering from Tesla.

      I've seen Tesla cars on the road in my state, so we can safely assume DOT has authorized them for US road use, and therefore are legal to drive in any state.

      Given that fact, I seriously doubt that anyone who can afford a $100,000 Tesla really has a problem transporting themselves to pick up said car, regardless of limited dealership locations.

      Hasn't really seemed to hurt Tesla sales so far. Doesn't hurt the likes

      • I'd imagine one of the biggest factors/problems/differences between buying out-of-state Ferraris/Lamborghinis and out-of-state Teslas is the fact that you can refuel the Ferrari or Lamborghini basically anywhere along the way back to your state. The Tesla? Not so much. You either need to plan charging stops, or get it towed/hauled to within X miles of your home (where X depends on the model of Tesla, obviously).

      • by Straif (172656)

        The issue is Tesla is not the limited number of Tesla dealerships, it's that Tesla's business model doesn't include ANY dealerships.

        You don't go to a dealer to look at a Tesla and then order one after a long draw out conversation about pricing, you go to the Tesla website and custom build the car you want and order it. Even their brick and mortar locations (more likely a mall kiosk) are generally only information booth style setups to direct people to their website to complete the ordering process.

        They don

    • Technically, it is because laws are on the books to require that only parties that are approved by the State legislatures be authorized to sell, dismantle, repair, or license new or used vehicles in a commercial, for profit setting. Some states went in and made laws to govern Dealerships themselves as being "third parties" from the manufacturers themselves to promote competition and reduce pricing collusion between Dealerships within a geographic region. Sure, the Manufacturer still sets MSRP and even the p
    • Basically, 100 years ago the big mean car companies were sometimes mean to local dealers. Here's a list of things dealers claimed that manufacturers did, as codified in New York law:
      http://ypdcrime.com/vt/article... [ypdcrime.com]

      If the car dealer fought back, the manufacturer would either a) threaten to open a new dealership next door or b) stop delivering cars to the dealership.
      Like laws that force companies to work with unions, these laws force manufacturers to work with local dealers. If the manufacturer cut off the

  • The automotive industry wields a tremendous amount of power. It's not a surprise that they pushed to have Tesla squashed.
  • You kids are really still posting/signing petitions on the White House site?

    Even after several years of them all but telling us "this is purely for show, we will never honor any of the requests in these?"

    There's a point where the definition of insanity intersects with the definition of absolutely goddamn brainlessness. That point is, apparently, the We The People petition site.

  • But they could suggest Congress write new laws instead of just noting that Congress would need to take action.

    "Congress take action" - Ha.

  • by Okian Warrior (537106) on Tuesday July 15, 2014 @12:52PM (#47458325) Homepage Journal

    The problem with the petition is that it has no consequences.

    Would it help if petitioners agreed to vote *against* the incumbent president's party at the next election if the issue isn't addressed?

    Some of the petitions net upwards of a quarter-million signatures. Is that enough votes to get Washington to take notice?

  • Especially laws that would place the interests of the individual ahead of the interests of an established industry cartel? That's a laugh.

  • by ravenscar (1662985) on Tuesday July 15, 2014 @01:00PM (#47458441)

    These White House petitions drive me a little nuts. I appreciate that they bring publicity to an issue, but they also demonstrate a fundamental misunderstanding of how the US Government is designed to work. The issue is state and local laws. These laws don't contradict federal laws. What do people want the President to do about it? If people are upset about their local laws they need to work at the local level - petitioning state law makers.

    The argument could be made that this is interstate commerce. Great, then work with your national representatives to propose federal legislation that would overrule the local laws. It very likely would have to stand up to a court challenge, but the courts have been exceptionally liberal in their interpretation of interstate commerce. If the local governments fail to comply THEN the executive branch will get involved in enforcement.

    It seems like people want the Executive and Judicial branches making the laws. This isn't how it's supposed to happen - for good reason. This reflects not only a bad approach to government, but it is also a sign of just how completely broken Congress is. How said that the only ones who seem able to push any sort of legislation through Congress are big businesses. Everyone else is stuck looking for some sort of alternative. Sadly, those alternatives, should they end up successful, will just result in a less representative, more authoritarian government.

    • by bluefoxlucid (723572) on Tuesday July 15, 2014 @01:48PM (#47458969) Journal

      Exactly. Congress has to write a law saying, "By Constitutional law, we are tasked to facilitate interstate commerce. This is impeding interstate commerce; therefor, the new law says: stop doing that." Then the President can point and say, "Go Go Federal Agents!" and any lawsuits raised by Tesla can get to the Federal Courts where the Judge is obligated to say, "Your state laws are in conflict with Federal regulations which are supported by powers Constitutionally granted to the Federal government, therefor the Federal regulations trump your State laws."

    • but they also demonstrate a fundamental misunderstanding of how the US Government is designed to work.

      So do the majority of the comments on this article.

  • How many times has the President (any President) done exactly this? Since Jackson famously told the Supremes "now go and enforce it" the Executive has been able to give the Judicial the finger. How many times in recent memory has the Executive waived, changed, or broken existing laws regarding the new Health Care act?

    • How many times has the President (any President) done exactly this? Since Jackson famously told the Supremes "now go and enforce it" the Executive has been able to give the Judicial the finger. How many times in recent memory has the Executive waived, changed, or broken existing laws regarding the new Health Care act?

      The problem is that this isn't a federally enforced law, it's a state enforced law. Obama can tell federal agents to no longer enforce any of these laws, but that won't change anything in since the feds aren't the ones supporting these laws to begin with.

      Basically you'd be down to what the government had to do to force racial integration: Send in the army to keep Tesla dealerships open and protect the Tesla dealerships against state law enforcement. While I'd like to see you, you can understand why that mig

    • by VorpalRodent (964940) on Tuesday July 15, 2014 @01:50PM (#47458999)
      It took me a minute to parse this for context. I was grasping at straws for when Michael Jackson and/or the Jackson Five was giving orders to Diana Ross.
  • by istartedi (132515) on Tuesday July 15, 2014 @01:07PM (#47458531) Journal

    Well now, here's an actual legitimate use of the Commerce Clause; but Congress won't use it. Every podunk dealer that ever contributed to their campaigns would ring their phones off the hook, as well as actual corporate lobby from GM, etc.

  • by MobyDisk (75490) on Tuesday July 15, 2014 @01:11PM (#47458585) Homepage

    Obama gave the only reply he could. It essentially says "I don't control that, I can't help you. Sorry."

    When your local state passes a bad law, don't cry to the federal government. Call your local representatives and fix the law yourself. It's easier to get local laws changed, and that is the appropriate level to do it.

  • by Mysticalfruit (533341) on Tuesday July 15, 2014 @01:18PM (#47458671) Journal
    The reply is actually excellent. I was about to hate all over the page but actually read it first. Frankly, this is an individual states issue... Which only an act of congress can change, or have our local politicians change.

    However, the auto dealership lobby is a serious nut to crack. With elections coming, I'm not sure many politicians are going to put their necks out so they can be labeled as against local businesses.
  • Move to Canada (Score:5, Interesting)

    by diodeus (96408) on Tuesday July 15, 2014 @01:30PM (#47458797) Journal

    Move Tesla to Canada. The rules of NAFTA trump this local dealer baloney.

  • by thetoadwarrior (1268702) on Tuesday July 15, 2014 @01:30PM (#47458807) Homepage
    Why is the government allowed to stop the guy from selling a legal product?
  • Kit car (Score:4, Interesting)

    by MouseR (3264) on Tuesday July 15, 2014 @01:33PM (#47458829) Homepage

    Tesla could sell the car as a kit where you order one or more of N components to complete the car.

    Eg, the car body, the batteries, the clip-on steering wheel.

  • unfair restraint of trade. Auto Dealers are NOT necessary.

  • by Urkki (668283) on Tuesday July 15, 2014 @02:27PM (#47459333)

    WTF? I know US has its problems, and I doubt I'd want to live there, but isn't it supposed to be a free market economy? Isn't this (not being allowed to sell legal goods to people) about as anti-American as it gets? What happaned to "the Land of the Free" etc? Free, except not free to buy a car?

  • by troll -1 (956834) on Tuesday July 15, 2014 @04:36PM (#47460859)
    Article I, section 8 of the Constitution clearly takes the power to regulate commerce out of the hands of the Executive and gives it to Congress. And if it's not interstate commerce then it's up to the states.
  • by argStyopa (232550) on Tuesday July 15, 2014 @04:38PM (#47460877) Journal

    Total number of substantive results from the petition site? Zero.

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