Why Is Tesla Not Allowed In Utah? Um, We’re Not Really Sure.

Utah should be known for embracing innovation, not body-blocking its rise.

Technology is advancing at warp-speed — things we never thought possible five years ago are now here, and things we can’t even imagine will exist five years in the future. There are a lot of uncertainties in life (What makes Lebron James so good at basketball? How am I so bad at golf?), but this isn’t one of them: technological advancement is here and here to stay.

The inevitable backlash to this progress is expected. People and business communities set in their ways naturally resist something they find threatening: the transportation industry is going bananas about the existence of Uber and Lyft, just as insurance brokers are throwing a collective hissy-fit because Zenefits is encroaching on their territory. I’m not blaming them, and I’m sure I would probably do the same if placed in the same situation. When your job and livelihood are at stake, most people will do anything to survive.

The replacement of outdated business communities with newer renditions isn’t right or wrong, it just is. Since the beginning of time, businesses have constantly evolved — one minute you’re an up-and-comer, the next you’re king of the world, the next you’re being replaced by something shinier and more desirable. It’s the circle of business life.

When two opposing mindsets go to war over the same space, conflict inevitably ensues. Because we live in a semi-civilized world (hard emphasis on semi), parameters have been set in place to regulate these business fights as calmly and judiciously as possible. Ultimately, government will decide who wins and who loses.

Sometimes, the government supports innovation. The ban of Zenefits in Utah is something we’ve covered extensively here at Beehive Startups. In the end, Utah’s entrenched insurance community received a full-fledged stiff-arm from HB 141, approved by House and Senate alike, allowing Zenefits to re-enter Utah and offer their services to all takers.

Sometimes, the government isn’t so supportive. Tesla Motors, an online-based car dealer specializing in luxury electric cars, recently built a dealership in South Salt Lake. No big deal. Utah citizens get a taste of the luxury lifestyle, Tesla gets a taste of Utah’s notable infatuations (Jell-O, Rudy Gobert, fry sauce, jeans with tennis shoes), and car dealerships welcome a new competitor to the marketplace.

The problem? Utah’s legislators have denied Tesla the ability to sell cars within the state.

Apparently, Utah state law prohibits manufacturers from directly selling cars to the consumer, instead forcing them to go through franchises. Yes, my friends, that’s what we call a middleman.

Because I value honesty, I will say this: I don’t understand why this is a law, you don’t understand why this is a law, and even the politicians who created it don’t understand why it’s a law.

So the problem is easily solvable, right? Somebody introduces a bill — as Rep. John Knotwell did for the Zenefits controversy — that modifies the old law, clarifying that this type of innovation wasn’t foreseen when the original law was created. This happens all the time, mainly because there is no way for legislators to predict the future. Laws that at the time seemed reasonable become outdated when something new comes onto the scene.

Except HB 394 — sponsored by Rep. Kim Coleman and designed to change the law prohibiting manufacturers from owning dealerships in Utah by introducing an “online dealer” classification — was recently rejected by the Utah House of Representatives.

So now we sit at an awkward impasse. Tesla is left scratching their heads, sitting on a dealership they can’t legally open, and Utah is left in the contradictory position of claiming to be a state supporting innovation and new business while doing the exact opposite. Anyone wanting to purchase a Tesla must do so outside the state. If you think about it, the situation is all sorts of ridiculous.

New competition shouldn’t be squashed, allowing and encouraging new ideas are basic principles this country was founded upon. If a newer, more-capable competitor rises into the marketplace, there’s no reason that company shouldn’t be allowed to compete on the same playing field as everyone else. Utah denying Tesla the right to sell cars is absurd and more importantly, causes other businesses to think twice about venturing into the state.

This is my humble request: don’t let Utah turn into the state equivalent of that sour-puss old man who hates everything even remotely resembling a computer, and who tells anyone who will listen how much gasoline, hamburgers, and milkshakes used to cost (quick side note: WE DON’T CARE).

Utah should be known for embracing innovation, not body-blocking its rise.

If this issue means anything to you — or if you’re just a human being with a logically-thinking brain — sign this petition and let your voice be heard.

Published 3/13/2015

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