SAN ANTONIO – A new name has popped up along Interstate 10 West's car dealership corridor: Tesla.
The high-end electric car maker is preparing to open a showroom in the former Ducati motorcycle dealership near the Dominion. Tesla declined to say when, but renovations are underway.
Consumers will be able to look and touch but not buy. Texas law says new cars must be sold through franchised dealerships. It's a law California-based Tesla has twice tried to get changed.
But Tesla is not giving up. For a third legislative session, two bills — Senate Bill 2093 and House Bill 4236 — have been filed that would allow car manufacturers to sell directly to consumers. It's a change the Texas Automobile Dealers Association opposes.
"The franchise system really protects consumers. It enables them to shop in a competitive environment," said April Ancira, who leads TADA's legislative efforts. "We have a Nissan store, but there's a Nissan store down the road as well. You can do some comparative shopping there, and we go to fight for the sale, so we end up lowering the price."
Ancira calls Tesla's business model, bypassing the middleman, a one-price monopoly.
Dealerships also help manufacturers get their product to a wide market, including more rural areas, Ancira said.
Tesla declined to comment. However, the webpage TeslainTexas.org states that the "current system prevents open competition" and is outdated.
For now, at least, Tesla continues to open showrooms where consumers can talk cars but not price.
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