Thursday, December 8, 2016

Paradise ponders, broken weather forecast edition...

Paradise ponders, broken weather forecast edition...  The current weather forecast calls for a low temperature of 27°F today.  The current temperature is 7.1°F.  Apparently the weather man can't be bothered with looking out his window!  I ventured outside, very briefly, in just my jeans and short-sleeved shirt – I dashed out to turn on the yard lights when I let the dogs out.  I wasn't sure how awful it would be, but it actually wasn't too bad.  I got my coat on before I walked over to my office in the barn a few minutes ago – I think that 50' or so would have been too much in shirtsleeves at this temperature!  I enjoyed the crunchy granola sound my feet made in the snow; it's very different when it's so cold.

Well, yesterday I did manage to actually finish the last bits of the mud room wiring.  Even better: our builder showed up with the trim for the inside of the new front door, and he installed it.  This trim was tricky because it had to fit the curve of the arched top window – that's a bit hard to do with wood (though not impossible if you happen to own a steam cabinet).  Arched windows are common these days, though, and the construction industry came up with an alternative: flexible trim made out of a rubbery plastic, pre-curved to approximately the right radius and then adjustable (slightly) to fit the actual window.  Now I have a new job: caulk and paint that new trim. :)

I received a Fedex package from Tesla Motors, and of course my first thought was that they were going to tell me my car was ready.  Alas, that was not the case – though the first sentence was encouraging:
“Your Tesla Model X will be ready for delivery very soon.” 
Of course, “very soon” is one of those painfully ambiguous terms that could mean five minutes or five years.  Sigh.

So what was this package about?  Well, it turns out that it contained a temporary registration and an application for an actual registration, along with a form declaring delivery outside the state of California.  The temporary registration was for California, though – as was the application for actual registration.  Ack!  I thought there was some mistake, and immediately called my Tesla contact.

That's when I got a little education into the silly things that Tesla has to do in order to sell cars in Utah (and most other states, too).  They are not licensed to sell cars in Utah because the car dealers lobby has successfully (so far) lobbied to require new care sales to be handled through a dealer – not directly from the manufacturer.  Of course, Tesla has no dealers, they only sell direct.  This much I already knew, but I also knew that I could buy the car directly and then pick it up from the Tesla showroom in Salt Lake City.  I wasn't clear why that was ok even though the showroom wasn't a dealership, though.  Well, now I know.  It's because I have to buy the car through the state of California, then transfer my registration to Utah.  Tesla can deliver the car to Utah, but they can't actually sell it to me here.  So we play this silly game of buying it in California but delivering it to me here.  There's no money involved, just a bunch of paperwork – wasting everybody's time and energy but accomplishing nothing.

It's another great example of government getting in the way of a simple transaction, then of a business cleverly finding a way around the issue.  In this case, Utah – generally very much a pro-business state – is actually making it harder for Tesla to do business here, but is protecting a group (new car dealers) that donate a great deal of money to politicians each year.  At the same time, they're dealing themselves out of some sales tax revenue – I'm paying California sales tax, not Utah (and if you know me well, you'll understand just how much that pains me!).

The car dealership's behavior is certainly understandable: they make their money mostly on maintenance and warranty repairs, kickbacks on financing, upsells, and some on the direct profit margin of the car sale (though that's much less than most people think).  When cars broke down every few hundred miles (as they did when I was young), one could make a good case for the need of a dealer nearby, with a stock of parts and expertise.  Cars these days, though, are vastly more reliable than they used to be – and at the same time, modern logistics has practically eliminated the need for local stocks of parts (you can overnight a part from Shanghai if need be).  Then there's the fact that the Internet allows the instant delivery of any car's maintenance manual to any garage, almost anywhere on Earth.  What essential function does a dealer provide these days?  None, is the obvious answer.  So now that they can't justify their existence on business grounds, they've managed to get laws passed in many states that mandates their existence – and without those laws, they'd almost certainly be out-competed by alternatives.  One such alternative is Tesla with their direct sales model and manufacturer-provided maintenance, so they're fighting it as hard as they can.  I think they know that they're fighting a war they'll lose in the long run, but like a drowning rat they're paddling as long as they can...

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