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Why It's Hard To Buy A Tesla In Texas

Tesla/Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

From Texas Standard:

Ever sat at the gas pump, and just wondered when enough is enough? Constantly fluctuating gas prices, the wasted time spent sitting at the pump – not to mention fumes, smog and other environmental factors – all lead to the search for a better alternative.


The Texas Legislature thinks the future could lie in electric cars. To put their money where their mouth is, the state has reinstated a tax incentive to back the concept.

Despite this, getting Texans excited about e-cars could be a challenge.

With a new $2,500 enticement from Texas and an additional federal incentive, automobile industry reporter Micheline Maynard says the state's e-car shopping list is limited.

The Texas incentive applies to models like the Nissan LEAF and the Chevy Bolt EV but can't be used when purchasing the most desired e-car, the luxury brand Tesla. Texas is one of two states that bar the sale of cars directly to consumers, which is the Tesla business model.

Tesla has twice tried to change the Texas law prohibiting direct automobile sales to consumers but has failed both times.

"It seems like the Texas Legislature is sending a very loud signal to Tesla that you're going to have to do business our way or you're not going to be able to sell cars in Texas,” Maynard says.

Texas has 1,300 franchise auto dealerships, all with a powerful lobbying voice in the state.

"That's as many car dealers Toyota has in all of the United States," Maynard says.

Dealers invest $1 million or more per franchise into the communities they serve and are robust employers, according to Maynard.

Although Maynard draws a parallel between the Uber and Lyft ride-hailing apps fight in Austin where established taxi services pushed away the competition and Tesla CEO Elon Musk's attempt to break into the Texas market, she says Tesla's outcome may be different.

"It may not be forever," Maynard says. "Elon Musk may figure out a way to sell cars in Texas."

Maynard suggests Musk partner with an established brand in the state. If not, she says, Tesla is losing out on the huge market that is Texas.

In addition to the financial incentives, high gas prices are a major influencer to driving e-car purchases. And Maynard sees further promise in e-car growth among millennials, who she says are more likely to embrace new transportation technologies.


Written by Louise Rodriguez.

Laura first joined the KUT team in April 2012. She now works for the statewide program Texas Standard as a reporter and producer. Laura came to KUT from the world of television news. She has worn many different hats as an anchor, reporter and producer at TV stations in Austin, Amarillo and Toledo, OH. Laura is a proud graduate of the University of Missouri-Columbia, a triathlete and enjoys travel, film and a good beer. She enjoys spending time with her husband and pets.
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