White House brushes off Tesla petition to sell cars directly to consumers

Tesla's Garden State Plaza store in New Jersey

A petition asking the Obama Administration “to allow Tesla Motors to sell directly to consumers in all 50 states” finally received an official response this week, but the answer will likely disappointment fans of the car maker.

As Jalopnik reports, the White House wrote, “as you know, laws regulating auto sales are issues that have traditionally sat with lawmakers at the state level” — meaning that Tesla will not be getting any high-level help fighting laws that block the direct sale of cars like Tesla Motor’s electric Model S.

States like New Jersey and Texas have passed such laws, which are widely viewed as a means to protect the auto industry’s longtime franchise dealer model. This means that, while Telsa can open “experience outlets” that show off its cars, it can’t actually sell them through these outlets.

Tesla filed its petition in June 2013, and soon received more than 100,000 signatures, which is the level at which the White House is obliged to offer an official response.

While the Administration’s framing of auto sale regulation as a state issue is not surprising, Tesla boosters will be disappointed that it did not call on Congress to look at the issue.

The response offers praise for Tesla and highlights the Administration’s clean car initiatives, but the company does not appear to be satisfied. In a statement, Diarmuid O’Connell, VP of corporate and business development, described the White House message as “disappointing” and said it “was even more timid than its rejection of a petition to begin construction of a Death Star.”

The White House petition system, dubbed “We the People,” has been in place for years and led to a series of official responses on serious policy issues as well some more frivolous ones. In April, the White House responded to a petition to deport Justin Bieber, but declined to take action, saying “we’ll leave it to others to comment on Mr. Bieber’s case.”

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