I admit that even with much of the shine now removed from the New Jersey governor’s appeal as a potential 2016 Republican presidential candidate, what appears to have been an arbitrary move to essentially ban the selling of Tesla automobiles in his state strikes me as both surprisingly anti-capitalist and as little more than a weak capitulation to the auto-dealership lobby – (otherwise known as the middlemen for middlemen). Not an earth-shaking issue, but yet one more disappointment.
An article in today’s Slate explains: “The rule change prohibits automakers from selling directly to consumers, as Tesla does. Instead, it requires them to go through franchised, third-party dealerships, as the big, traditional car companies do . . . The Christie Administration made the move unilaterally, via the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission. It was urged on by lobbyists for the state’s existing car dealerships, which fear the competition. The upshot is that Tesla will be forced to stop selling cars at its two existing dealerships in the state, and drop its plans to build more. It’s unclear what will happen to the employees of those dealerships.” (emphasis added)
New Jersey now joins Texas and Arizona as states that have taken similarly anti-competitive moves by making Tesla’s existing business model virtually illegal in order to appease traditional auto dealers.
Even putting aside Tesla’s positive environmental impact, it’s highly unclear to me how one can favor “small government,” and simultaneously be telling your citizens they can’t purchase their car of choice. I’m sure there are all sorts of random justifications about the benefits of independent dealerships, but imagine how negatively most Republicans would react if a Democrat did this with regard to Hummers (and, frankly, I’d be one of them . . .)
Government by regulatory fiat isn’t appropriate when President Obama does it – and it’s not right for the people of New Jersey either. (And btw – If you’re trying to escape the image of being a “bully,” is this really good politics???)