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What will it take for the rest of the automobile industry to stop dismissing Tesla Motors as a boutique car manufacturer? That phrase was actually used by a Nissan sales representative at the Silicon Valley Driving Charged and Connected event two weeks ago. He was answering a question about whether Nissan would ever get into the business of selling cars directly to the public, which of course Nissan cannot do in the U.S. because of dealership laws. While answering the question he referred to certain boutique manufacturers of luxury electric cars, obliquely referring to Tesla without saying their name.

http://www.longtailpipe.com/2014/05/tesla-motors-due-to-surpass-porsches.html

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The problem that Nissan has with regards to selling direct to consumers is that Nissan has already established itself as selling through dealerships. Hence, it would be an unfair business practice for Nissan to now step-in and attempt to sell directly as they'd be directly competing with their own franchises. Many US states are tightening-up these laws in response to Tesla's sales model, and the lobby from traditional car dealerships is unfortunately convincing some states to outlaw Tesla's sales model there.

Tesla's sales model is necessary for getting their product, electric vehicles, to market. Traditional dealerships have a much-reduced incentive to sell electric vehicles over ICE vehicles. Having recently been on the purchase-end of this I can assure you that traditional dealerships are beyond awkward when dealing with EVs. Not only do they not know how they work or why a consumer would want one, but they are also disinclined to promote them as they do not regularly feed their service department through scheduled servicing as ICE vehicles require.

Nissan can only blame itself. The Leaf, like the Volt/Ampera, iMiEV, and other EV offerings from traditional car manufacturers are a direct response to Tesla's business. Were it not for Tesla I would find it difficult to believe that Nissan would have produced the Leaf. Nissan had their Altra EV in 1998-2002 but only in a very small quantity (~200)... and I wonder if that was only to appease California's air-quality laws as necessary during that time before "consumer demand" legally mitigated the application of CARB's zero-emission program. Maybe they didn't crush those Altra EV's in such a blatant way as GM did with the EV1, but they're just as responsible for creating an atmosphere ripe for a start-up company like Tesla to shake things up in the marketplace with environmentally-concious consumers.

Sure, Tesla currently sells in a year only as many cars as some manufacturers sell in a few days, but Nissan certainly feels threatened by Tesla's business model. Since the beginning Tesla has made it clear that its intentions are to target every car buyer and not remain in the high-end sports car and luxury sedan business. Understand that to mean that Tesla intends to eventually manufacture cars that will be priced to sell to average-income consumers... and that means that Nissan will eventually find itself struggling to compete against Tesla in the EV marketplace because Nissan's pricing to consumers will involve the overhead of the ICE-minded dealerships.

So Nissan may be in a position now to jest in Tesla's direction, but in time Tesla will have the last laugh.
 
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