In a strongly worded blog post Wednesday, the Federal Trade Commission derided legislative attempts to prevent consumers from buying cars directly from manufacturers. While this certainly applies to Tesla Motors’ plans to cut out the middleman on auto sales, the government position would cover any company that wishes to sell cars directly to consumers — like, say, Apple.
Can you imagine a day when we can roll into an Apple retail store, flash an Apple Watch and purchase an iCar with Apple Pay?
“A fundamental principle of competition is that consumers — not regulation — should determine what they buy and how they buy it,” writes the federal regulatory body on its website. “Consumers may benefit from the ability to buy cars directly from manufacturers — whether they are shopping for luxury cars or economy vehicles. The same competition principles should apply in either case.”
The way Tesla (and perhaps Apple, in the future) sells its electric cars to consumers is a disruptive retail model in this world where you usually have to go to a franchise dealer to kick the tires and cut a deal with a sales rep. It seems archaic and overly protective of monolithic car companies, which benefit from the system.
Tesla has faced legal resistance to its hopes to sell cars directly to consumers without using third-party franchise dealerships to do so. The FTC is pretty clear: We should be able to not only choose what kind of car we want to buy, but the way in which we buy it.
Some states, like New Jersey, that have banned this kind of direct sales of automobiles are starting to open the door a bit, allowing companies like Tesla and Elio Motors (which make a low-cost three-wheeled vehicle) to operate on a limited basis. Other states, like Michigan, are doubling down on prohibitions to manufacturer direct sales.
It seems like, as with every other disruptive technology, the current in-power companies want to legislate protections to their legacy way of conducting business. Here’s hoping that the FTC continues to lobby hard for consumer choice when it comes to buying cars in the future.
Because, honestly, I really just want to buy an electric Apple Car with my Apple Watch.