Cars and Cow Pies in the Garden State


The Site of Tesla's Fight in New Jersey - Image Copyright InsideEVs - Tom Moloughney

The Site of Tesla’s Fight in New Jersey

New Jersey’s Motor Vehicle Commission just became the latest to ban direct auto sales (read: Tesla Motors). In what is, at a minimum, poor timing, the state’s Coalition of Auto Retailers justified its position by alleging that, “an auto manufacturer is congenitally incapable of fully and faithfully honoring warranty and safety recall obligations.”

GM Expands Ignition Switch Recall

GM Expands Ignition Switch Recall

Congenitally incapable of faithfully honoring safety obligations. No subtlety there. So, we need independently-owned auto dealers to sell us cars specifically so they can later protect us from those who built them in the first place? If that’s truly the case, where we buy our cars is the least of our worries.

Meanwhile, 1.6 million Chevrolets, Pontiacs, and Saturns have recently become the focus of not only a massive product safety recall, but a Congressional inquiry and federal criminal probe, in the wake of evidence that General Motors and its dealers have known for more than a decade of the ignition switch problems linked to over thirty vehicle crashes and at least a dozen deaths. By law, each of those vehicles was sold by the type of franchisee the NJ dealer lobby claims is a buyer’s best – if not only – defense against such flaws and an automaker’s refusal to correct them.


I’ve worked in and with auto retailers for more than twenty years. The folks within a few have rivaled any customer service Tesla provides. But never in my lifetime have conventional dealers, as a category, been considered bastions of consumer protection or a customer-centric experience. When franchise laws were established nearly eighty years ago, some of those arguments may have been legitimate. Today, organizations like NJ CAR are seeking merely to protect the same monopolization they once fought against.

EV Fans Unite Against New Jersey

EV Fans Unite Against New Jersey

It’s not just Tesla that suffers. “Incumbent” automakers with existing franchises have also become handcuffed by such a singular, narrow model, even as it may no longer be optimal– particularly for new technologies and vehicles. Most importantly, the customer is the biggest loser as companies big and small compete not on value of service, but on political expenditures and the like. Increasingly, those customers know it and are acting accordingly.

To wit, fans of Tesla’s direct-sales model (including those who don’t drive Tesla’s vehicles) showed up on a few hours’ notice to put their support on the public record, even after the Motor Vehicle Commission’s decision had already been made. In six years of Tesla’s corporate-owned stores, I’ve yet to see a similarly reported show of public support for traditional dealers, in any state.

If those dealers truly believe they offer a better experience, they should embrace the competition. And then quit whining and win it. In some cases they undoubtedly will, but they need to be willing to do so.

All else is just old school, four-square era bullshit. And the lobbyists defending it need either a better argument or higher boots.

(Disclosures: I worked my way through college mostly by selling cars for Saturn, obviously some years ago. I’ve since known and worked with many other dealers from different brands. For years, my husband was a technician and/or manager at a franchised dealer, and between us, we’ve worked with/for every single brand I mention in this post at dealer and/or corporate levels, including Tesla. Also, we still own and love a 2004 Saturn, now apparently affected by this latest recall. The boy is still hoping to inherit it.)

Editor’s Note: Our thanks to Chelsea Sexton for sharing this story with our readers.  We encourage readers to also check out Chelsea’s blog here.

Category: Chevrolet, General, Tesla

Tags: , , ,

41 responses to "Cars and Cow Pies in the Garden State"
  1. Anon says:

    If you dry out cow pies, they burn…

  2. Assaf says:

    Chelsea thanks so much for this op-ed.

    It should be pointed out, that the decision is the action of Chris Christie’s administration, *not* the NJ State Legislature as was implied in previous reports calling it “legislation”.

    This is not legislation. It is an executive fiat by a flailing, tainted governor seeking to pander to people living outside of NJ, by picking easy targets.

    1. Jeff says:

      Exactly so!

  3. Scott Franco says:

    You can see that the GM dealer organization strongly petitioned GM to fix the ignition switch defect over the 10 years the car was sold.

  4. Taser54 says:

    Acctually, NJ just reaffirmed existing law and noted that it had erroneously granted Tesla a license.

    1. Anon says:

      Actually, no one’s buying your revisionist BS. 😉

      1. Taser54 says:

        Putting a smily face at the end of your post doesn’t make you any less of a jerk.

        1. Anon says:

          I suppose that’s why you don’t bother.

  5. What folks used to say about having a free market? Tesla is an American car company.

    These people need to have their heads examined – or at least they need to be voted out of office.

    1. If licenses were issued to Tesla in error, why was a rule change needed?

      Why wasn’t public comment allowed prior to the NJ MVC rule change if it was in the best interests of the public?

      1. CherylG says:

        The public comment period was open for months before this week’s meeting. If people didn’t provide comments during the legal comment period that’s their fault. It’s also Tesla’s fault for not rallying their troops until it was too late.

        I suspect Tesla was hoping to work a back room deal rather than following the normal Legislative process.

  6. David Murray says:

    Pretty sad, really. Considering the auto manufacturers pay for all of the recalls and warranty repairs. If they refuse to pay for any reason, a dealership will not do their repair on their dime.

  7. Gera Quiroz says:

    I wonder how much of a kickback they received?
    Consumer protection?? my beehind

  8. Wonder what state will be the first to introduce a proposition to lift automotive franchise laws that place restrictions on rights and freedoms for both customers and non-franchised businesses ?

    1. Nelson says:

      If history is to repeat itself it would be the State of Massachusetts or Philadelphia.

      Let Freedom Ring

      NPNS! SBF!

  9. James says:

    EV proponents like us need to get busy in our activism over enacting proper and just campaign finance laws. If citizens do not rise up and DEMAND campaign finance reform, WHO WILL? Will politicians? NO WAY! This is their bread and butter. To me, campaign finance reform ( THE LACK OF IT ) is the largest and highest profile enemy of our democratic way of life.

    So many politicians are bought by BIG OIL, and now we see on the state and federal level – auto dealer associations. We are all watching our country slide into partisan bashing and the majority of government run by special interests.

    1. ClarksonCote says:

      The problem is the large majority of Americans just don’t care. I used to laugh at the Simpsons when the crowd could be so easily swayed from one opinion to the next as different speakers shouted their points, and in the end they didn’t really care.

      That is what our country has become.

      1. James says:

        Partisanship just hides the grim reality we find ourselves in. Lots of EV proponents and environmentalists like to sling blame one way – towards conservatives. That doesn’t hold water because there are enough special interests to go around. Sure, the G.O.P. is owned by Big Oil and Gas, but the unions practically own the left, along with entitlement pushers and the whole legion of politically-correct humanist lobbyists.

        Each side points it’s finger at the other, whilst both have their hands out to any special cause or industry that’s willing to grease their palms.

        1. KenZ says:

          Well stated. It goes both ways, and there are plenty of conservatives who support alt energy. Heck, just look at the founding of Plug In America.

          1. Grant Gerke says:

            That’s the silly thing, this should be a conservative issue. But, the walking orders have been given and they’re “against it.” Cause it may seem like a “win” for America? And, that translates to the Democrat in the White House? Messed up.

            This political, pure and simple. This is an American Car company that these mutant Nixon greed heads threw out of their state. Free markets, Big govermnent and it sure looks like Govt is picking a winner here–mult. choice. The GOP leadership is a bunch of narcissist hypocrites who wrap themselves in the flag when it’s convenient.

            It’s good to hear they’re not in bed in with the horse & buggy lobby, anymore. Selah.

            1. Rick Danger says:

              I miss Hunter too…

      2. David Stone says:

        No, that is what you country is, because it is inhabited by the enemy of reason: humans…

        The Simpsons is not just a comedy, but a mirror of society.

    2. pjwood says:

      “Campaign finance reform” is a metaphor for something much deeper. The element of our country that is a republic wouldn’t hear of democratizing power away from those who’ve “earned it”. Blah, blah.

      Social media, a financial crisis and brazen moves by a lame duck Gov’r really shine the light on that falsehood. Innovation is the enemy of too many upholding their il-gotten republic.

  10. ClarksonCote says:

    I still claim BS on the whole Pontiac/GM thing. That is so blown out of proportion it is ridiculous.

    I similarly cry foul on this whole Tesla banning thing. At least we don’t need dealers to sell us Apple devices or Microsoft dealers to sell us Windows. United States of embarassment. Epic fail.

    1. pjwood says:

      +1 on GM. The cars loose drive, and wouldn’t lock steering unless keys were physically turned off. Granted, they should have fixed it, but every death would have to have transpired from something going bad because the car slowed down.

      I wonder if Porsche has figured out why 1, in 100, of every one of the new GT3’s self-combusts?

      1. io says:

        Turning off the ignition also disables power steering, brakes assist, airbags and (if applicable) seatbelts tensioners.

        This happening suddenly and while the vehicle is in motion can definitely cause accidents and increase their severity, as has been unfortunately demonstrated.

        1. ClarksonCote says:

          All reports, from what I’ve heard, is that these occurrences have taken place only after the vehicle was in a collision, not before.

  11. Jeff U'Ren says:

    Why didn’t the GM dealerships protect their customers from GM?
    Since you have to buy a GM car at a GM dealership BUY LAW, they seemed to have failed to do what they claim the law is for. Consumer protection.
    Maybe they should be part of the Federal investigation? No?

  12. David Murray says:

    I don’t understand why Tesla doesn’t just start another company with a different name and make them a dealership.

    1. Anon says:

      1. Cost
      2. Brand Dilution
      3. Diffused Company Focus
      4. Reduced Executive Accountability
      Etc., etc…

      1. David Stone says:

        5. Giving in to the stupid

    2. Big Solar says:

      Maybe Federal court is the way to go…..

      1. Taser54 says:

        Tesla’s attorneys know very well that the State regulation of Automobile sales to consumers is an issue historically reserved to the individual States. The Fed courts will not ride in and subsitute its judgment for that of the State legistlature. Therefore, Tesla will need to pursue a legistlative remedy.

  13. MDEV says:

    They are right dealerships are here to protect costumers against car makers. Just look how they are supporting the ripoff of owners of Fisker Karma. The dealers that sold the Karma stop giving service to the cars as soon the company went south no even offering service to the expenses to the owners. Just go to Fisker forum and you can read how they were let by then self, no warranty support, no ever dealer fee for service. Politicians are corrupt and we are becoming a country of plutocrats were only the millionaires able to buy politicians have rights.

    1. David Stone says:

      I am surprised this was not mentioned by Chelsea in her article as evidence that the dealers do not do what they claim.

      Because up until then, it was an easy claim, as they knew that there was little chance that any of the established car manufacturers would disappear.

  14. Jay D says:

    Ba-da-boom, ba-da-bing, way to go Chelsea!
    I’d like to see some links on how this story is playing out with the sheeple in the Garden State.

  15. Aaron says:

    Be sure and sign the White House’s “We the People” petition to allow Tesla to sell directly to consumers in all 50 states.

  16. Scott Franco says:

    The ex-speaker of the house had a good article on the NJ shutout:

    He is a republican, so you can see this is not a left-right issue. He says in the article:

    “In 2000, an in-depth analysis by Goldman Sachs concluded that selling cars directly to consumers would knock nearly 10 percent off the cost of an average car–a savings of $2,225 for a $26,000 vehicle. Others peg the cost of distribution through dealerships as up to 15 percent of the vehicles’ price.”

  17. Josh Bryant says:

    Great job Chelsea!!! Keep spreading the word.

    Maybe they will listen to you, they have in the past 🙂

  18. Andrew says:

    Couldn’t Tesla technically still bypass the dealer franchise laws by having its vehicles delivered by I feel like that would be the ultimate FU to dealerships.