On Tesla & Indiana

We forget that Indianapolis could have been the world’s automotive hub instead of Detroit. There were car manufacturers–including the Marmon Motor Car company, which won the first Indianapolis 500 with Ray Harroun–who made their home in the Circle City.

Indianapolis is a city defined by automobiles; auto racing is our biggest export. Hell, the first appearance of the rearview mirror was at the Indy 500. Unfortunately, those in charge of the state do not realize how automotive innovation built its capital.

Indiana legislators want to ban the automakers from directly selling vehicles to their customers, requiring a dealership intermediary. This would prevent Elon Musk’s Tesla brand of electric cars from being sold in the state.

Electric cars are the future, and there is no getting around it. Automakers are beginning to realize that now. Consumers who once bought hybrids like the Toyota Prius and Nissan Leaf are now buying electric vehicles to automotive industry outsiders Tesla.

As Tesla sees its sales increase, the traditional automakers are scrambling to get an electric car together, while Tesla marches forward toward its goal of the $35,000 electric car. That’s not good for folks like General Motors.

On February 2, the Indiana House of Representatives passed House Bill 1254, which would ban the direct sale of vehicles. The bill will bypass study committees, in order to enact the law by 2018. Tesla currently sells its cars out of its shop at the Keystone Fashion Mall in Indianapolis.

The bill has the backing, not surprisingly, from General Motors, the parent company of Chevrolet, whose electric vehicles are just now beginning to gain traction in the market.

The spirit of this law is not only anti-competition, but anti-innovation. Tesla took the floundering electric car market and turned into a viable business model. They are attempting to perfect things, such as vehicular autonomy, on which no other manufacturer has scratched the surface.

Indiana is synonymous with automotive innovation, but perhaps we shouldn’t be anymore. As they bow to the Old Gods of industry, our legislation curtails and discourages the growth of the industry’s much-needed new blood, and that isn’t the spirit of Indiana or its residents.

 

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