Despite not being allowed to actually sell cars on site - or even offer a test drive - Tesla has opened its newest venue in Texas. As of Friday, NorthPark Center mall in Dallas is home to the newest Tesla Gallery. Don't call it a Store!
The 2,200-square-foot gallery lets interested parties learn more about the California-based electric car company, and even sit behind the wheel of a Tesla Model S. Texas law prohibits manufacturers to sell directly to the customer, though which is the business model for Tesla. Employees at the gallery can't even discuss pricing. They can, however, explain the technology, and direct potential customers to their website where they can make a reservation at home. Let's call it a hands-on advertisement.
Employees at the gallery can't even discuss pricing.
"Our galleries create strong awareness for our product," Tesla Spokesperson Alexis Georgeson told Automotive News. "[They] are our advertising." Other Tesla owners in Texas, of which there are nearly 2,000, help pick up the slack, too, some even offering test drives to strangers, she said.
Since Texas law restricts selling cars without a franchised dealership, taking delivery of a Model S is a bit of a process. After purchasing online or by phone, the car is delivered from out of state by a third party. The vehicle is registered out-of-state as well, and customers must then register the car in Texas after taking ownership. When they do that, they must also pay the entirety of the Texas sales tax on the vehicle, as well as the price of the aspirin required for the accompanying headache.
Without franchised dealerships, repair options are also limited for Tesla owners in Texas. Tesla does have local subsidiaries that do repair work, but customers must first call Tesla Motors in California, who will decide what repair work is necessary before being sending the customer to the service center. Even then, employees aren't allowed to discuss additional repair needs with customers, or even advertise that they do warranty work. Currently, Tesla has three of these subcontracted service centers in Texas, in Austin, Houston and Dallas, with a San Antonio location on the way.
Last year, a bill was introduced to exempt Tesla from Texas's law banning factory-owned dealerships, but it didn't get to the House floor before the end of session. According to Georgeson, Tesla will try again to overturn the law when legislators reconvene next year. Despite opposition from the Texas Automobile Dealers Association, Tesla has found a friend in Governor Rick Perry. Tesla is considering Texas as a possible site for a new battery factory, and Perry is keen on the estimated $5-billion investment in his state.
So, until Tesla is actually allowed to sell its cars in Texas, feel free to visit the newest Gallery in Dallas, or the Galleries already established in Houston and Austin. Just don't ask for a test drive.