Car Buyers’ Guide

Plugging Away: Tesla vs. Texas

As electric vehicle technology evolves, a battle is waged over how those cars may be sold across the state.

By Nick Esquer November 3, 2015 Published in the November 2015 issue of Houstonia Magazine

1115 car buyers guide tesla model s hmuxcw

Tesla’s recently-announced Model X

Tesla wants to sell cars directly to customers. What does that mean? It means no Jack Roach, no Joe Myers, no John Eagle—no middleman of any kind. Instead, the company would sell its cars itself, on its own lots, using its own employees—a method that’s presently banned in Texas. Perhaps not surprisingly, the state’s car dealers want to keep it that way.

This past May, the State Legislature failed to vote on two separate bills that would have allowed Tesla to sell its cars the way it wants to, delaying the issue for another two years. Even so, plenty of Houstonians are still managing to cruise the streets in their shiny new electric cars. 

Since its Silicon Valley inception in 2003, the forward-thinking e-car company—headed by billionaire and possible Bond villain Elon Musk (he recently suggested we nuke Mars in order to make it habitable)—has been paving its own path. In Texas, for the time being that means displaying Teslas in “showrooms” like the one that occupies the somewhat inconspicuous space in the Nordstrom wing of the Galleria. Both that storefront and a new one in Spring assist local customers in purchasing the cars online—no test drives or finance guys here. 

“It was like ordering an Apple product online,” says A. Brass, president of a Houston energy company, who’s already purchased two of the luxury cars from the company’s sleek website and is currently waiting on Tesla number three to come in. Brass speaks of the cars in a reverential tone. “It just works,” he says. “It’s a tricky thing to achieve, having something made in such a small volume be so perfectly made; it’s like shooting the moon from your backyard and making a perfect landing on the first try.” 

Brass has plenty of company in Harris County, which leads the state in Tesla registrations, according to the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles, with well over 400 registered in Houston (compared to 345 in Austin’s Travis County and 313 in Dallas County, out of 1,800 Tesla registrations statewide). Nationwide, the company is doing so well it hit a record for annual orders in this year’s second quarter. 

And Teslas are becoming more approachable for the average consumer. Though the Model X starts at around $75,000, the Model S starts at a cooler $57,500, and the company is already taking orders for its brand-new Model 3, which will cost $35,000. The only catch? You’ll have to wait until 2017 for it to be delivered—right around the time, as it happens, of the next Texas legislative session.

Show Comments