The thrill of pressing the accelerator in a Tesla Model S bears no relation to politics. As with any other well-engineered car, people who love automobiles will get their kicks behind the wheel of the top-rated electric vehicle.
Unfortunately, politics plays a heavy-handed role as to where automakers can and can’t sell their vehicles. Take Tesla’s direct sales approach. According to a graphic from Mojo Motors, 27 states in the union have restrictions on where Tesla can sell cars. Of those 27, 16 voted for Romney in the 2012 presidential election. Nearly every other one (including New Jersey, Michigan, Wisconsin, South Carolina, Maine, and Alabama) has a Republican governor, and many have the trifecta of Republican governor, house, and senate in control of the states.
Why do Republican lawmakers have such a thing against Tesla’s direct sales? It would seen to go against the free market platform the party trumpets, as in this statement from the Republican National Committee before the 2012 election.
“Republicans believe in the Great American Dream, with its economics of inclusion, enabling everyone to have a chance to own, invest, build, and prosper … While small businesses have significantly contributed to the nation’s economic growth, our government has failed to meet its small business goals year after year and failed to overcome burdensome regulatory, contracting, and capital barriers. This impedes their growth … We will serve as aggressive advocates for small businesses.”
As John Oliver would say, “I call ‘Dingo.’” Here are 10 red states with the trifecta of Republican governor, house, and senate that have banned Tesla sales.
Gov. Rick Perry (R) is not known as a man of progressive ideas, but there could hardly be a bigger champion of the free market economy. The man who wanted to dissolve three government agencies (two of which he could name during a presidential debate) has given some lip service to Tesla getting a shot in Texas, but actions lifting the ban would be much more valuable than words.
As a Tesla spokesman after the company decided not to build its Gigafactory in the Lone Star State, Texas’s ban “doesn’t make us feel good as we look to build a plant.” In other words, Republican policies in Texas both hamper entrepreneurship and cost state residents the economic boom the Gigafactory would have provided. It was a lose-lose.
Utah, like every other state on this list, has what is called the legislative “trifecta” that includes a Republican majority in the State House of Representative, State Senate, and governor’s office. Gov. Gary Herbert (R) has not been as high-profile as others with respect to Tesla, but the situation is the same. Tesla has no stores and no service centers in Utah, and is not allowed to open any.
3. South Carolina
South Carolina, with Gov. Nikki Haley (R) in the executive branch and Republican controlling both branches of the legislature, checks in on the list of red states banning Tesla sales. What is notable about South Carolina is the state has one of the 10 highest excise taxes in the United States. When Stone Brewing Company looked for an outpost on the East Coast, it immediately crossed South Carolina off the list that included Virginia and Ohio. Tesla couldn’t create any jobs there if it wanted too, either.
Among states that have banned Tesla sales, Michigan’s case was among the most noteworthy since it is the cradle of the U.S. auto industry. The legislative process leading up to the Tesla ban was curious, to say the least. After legislators had reviewed the bill, anti-Tesla language was added and rushed through both houses overnight. Many lawmakers did not know they had effectively banned Tesla even though they had just voted on the law. Despite the bit of skullduggery in the legislature, Governor Rick Snyder (R) went ahead and signed it into law.
Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer (R) and the Republican majorities in both houses of the legislature have not done anything about a Tesla ban in Arizona. State officials who were hoping for the Gigafactory development project were disappointed when neighboring Nevada made the winning bid. Should Arizona have been surprised? Banning a company you hope brings a multi-billion-dollar project to your state is a poor strategy.
6. North Dakota
Gov. Jack Dalrymple (R) leads a state with a long tradition of voting red and having large reserves of oil. Dalrymple has gone on the record as wanting a loose energy policy, but regulations are in place that ban Tesla sales. While the automaker may not have a large market in the Dakotas anyway (there are no Superchargers in the state), the ban seems more like a political statement than a protection for dealerships.
While presiding over falling revenues and a poor state credit rating, Gov. Sam Brownback (R) has not been a model of economic opportunity for Kansas residents. Tesla has no opportunity in the state, where there are no Superchargers, stores, or service centers. Kansas voters nearly unseated Brownback in November elections, but the sitting governor held onto his job by 3.8% of the vote.
Alabama is the equivalent of a “drive-over” state as far as Tesla is concerned. There are no stores, no service centers, and no Superchargers inside state lines. Gov. Robert Bentley (R) and the Republican majorities in both legislative houses are not expected to change that fact. Bentley said job creation was his first priority in 2011. Those jobs won’t be at a Tesla store or service center.
Gov. Sean Parnell (R) and the Republican majorities in both houses of the Alaska state legislature have a ban on Tesla sales in place. Parnell famously received the keys to the position from Sarah Palin, another champion of free markets and reduced regulation. These principles ostensibly don’t apply to entrepreneurs working in the auto industry.
When reporters asked him about raising the minimum wage, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) answered, “I want jobs that pay two or three times the minimum wage.” Why not start by allowing Tesla to do business in Wisconsin? Chances are there would be many jobs in the salary range Walker suggested. After surviving a recall battle and reelection challenge, Walker has another four years to do something about his promise of economic development. It won’t include Tesla Motors.