Here is another in our series of articles about things going on around Rochester. Enjoy:
Rochester Assemblyman David Gantt is sponsoring a bill that opposes electric automobile manufacturer Tesla Motors, and has so far sailed through both the Transportation and Codes committees. Tesla Motors is attempting to change the way cars are bought and sold in America, much to the chagrin of auto dealers across the nation. The issue, however, is much more complicated when delving deeper as lawmakers, lobbyists, and different interest groups push different priorities.
New York previously allowed Tesla to open four stores, but this new bill would severely limit the circumstances that would allow a manufacturer to sell vehicles without franchise holders.
On the surface, Tesla could provide a much more environmentally friendly solution to traditional automobiles. The company’s innovative motor and battery technology allows their sedan to travel a whopping 265 miles on just a single charge. What’s more, the company’s carbon footprint shrinks yearly as the power grid mitigates coal, making better use of such green energy sources as wind and solar. If a Tesla owner were to install solar panels to charge their Tesla, vice president Diarmuid O’Connell says they’d be “literally driving on sunshine.”
While this green alternative would be tremendous, Tesla’s business plan is causing difficulties. Rather than selling through dealerships and franchise holders, they hope to sell directly to customers. The company has steadfastly cut out the middle men because they claim that dealers are accustomed to selling fossil fuel powered vehicles, and lack the expertise and motivation to educate consumers about the new technology. Elon Musk, the Tesla CEO, claims its necessary to survive since dealers will prefer to sell gas-powered vehicles rather than electric ones because this alternative will need fewer repairs, thusly driving less recurring revenue to dealerships, citing the failures of Fisker and Coda, two American electric-car manufacturers who worked with dealers.
The dealer model is supposedly good because it creates price competition on the sale of new cars, trade-ins, and financing terms. The bill sponsored by Gannett is similar to outdated anti-trust laws, which went by the wayside once dealerships gained a stronger foothold in the industry.
Regardless of how Tesla’s case plays out, there’s no doubt that green initiatives are gaining traction. Locally, Rochester’s Green Team was developed to help expand and update environmental compliance policy and coordinate different efforts across governmental departments. Such efforts have included alternative fuel additions to the city fleet, the Clean Sweep Program, and the “Flower City Looking Good” events. Nationally, industry trends are heading more towards environmentally conscious efforts. For example, new home builders are investing more eco-conscious resources that consume about 30% less energy than typical homes did about a decade ago.
Essentially, decision makers can prioritize the environment, backing Tesla, or they can protect local economic interests, backing the dealerships. It’s all down to which matters most to lawmakers’ districts.