The proposal, which the Raleigh News & Observer reports was unanimously approved by the state’s Senate Commerce Committee on Thursday, would apply to all car manufacturers, but the intended target is clear. It’s aimed at Tesla, the only U.S. automaker whose business model relies on selling cars directly to consumers, rather than through a network of third-party dealerships.
The bill is being pushed by the North Carolina Automobile Dealers Association, a trade group representing the state’s franchised dealerships. Its sponsor is state Sen. Tom Apodaca, a Republican from Henderson, who has said the goal is to prevent unfair competition between manufacturers and dealers. What makes it “unfair competition” as opposed to plain-old “competition”—something Republicans are typically inclined to favor—is not entirely clear. After all, North Carolina doesn’t seem to have a problem with Apple selling its computers online or via its own Apple Stores.
Still, it’s easy to understand why some car dealers might feel a little threatened: Tesla’s Model S outsold the Mercedes S-Class, BMW 7 Series, and Audi A8 last quarter without any help from them. If its business model were to catch on, consumers might find that they don’t need the middle-men as much as they thought.