By Jacob Bogage
The first Tesla store opened in Columbus, Ohio, 72 miles away. Then one popped up in Cincinnati. Soon, another was in Cleveland. Tesla’s Ohio invasion was swift and — to longtime auto dealers such as Blake Arbogast — a growing threat, creeping ever closer.
In Ohio, dealers sued and lobbied their legislators. One called Tesla’s spread into his territory “Armageddon.” All to no avail. Tesla, the electric-car manufacturer, and its boutique “galleries” are here to stay. The question now: Are traditional dealers?
Tesla, the California company founded by tech entrepreneur Elon Musk, plans to not only make electric cars as cool and fast as gas-guzzling sports cars but also to upend the way cars are sold. For generations, automobile manufacturers from Ford to Toyota to General Motors have been banned by state law from selling directly to consumers. Instead, their vehicles are sold by third-party dealers, many of which have deep ties to their community and political leverage.