Congratulations to New Jersey, Texas, Michigan, and Arizona — you’ve all just won Luddite Awards!
Unfortunately, the Luddite Award is not something you want.
Created and given out by the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF), a Washington D.C. nonprofit think tank, it’s more of a dubious distinction that’s given to people, companies and governments for their efforts to thwart new technologies and whatever benefits they might give society.
A “Luddite,” after all, is defined as “a member of any of the bands of English workers who destroyed machinery, especially in cotton and woolen mills, that they believed was threatening their jobs.”
The above four United States won this year’s Luddite Award because they are all trying to stop Tesla Motors from opening stores in their states. Tesla’s business model revolves around selling its premium electric cars directly to consumers, but these four particular states have laws that require automakers sell their vehicles through franchised dealerships.
“Over the years car dealers have succeeded in persuading state legislatures to pass a wide array of anti-consumer laws that protect car dealers at the expense of consumers,” said ITIF president Robert Atkinson in a statement on Friday.
“It is clear that these state laws are designed to protect franchise dealers at the expense of innovation and competition. State lawmakers should look out for the best interests of consumers and overall productivity, not protect the business model of auto dealers.”
With past efforts to block electric cars from going mainstream, Tesla can’t afford to cede any control of its customer experience to third parties. Tesla’s VP of business developmentrecently told The Washington Postthat the company considers its stores “as much education venues as retail venues.”
If Tesla worked with franchise owners, it would relinquish much of its control in how the cars are sold, and how much they’re sold for, which could result in a bad customer experience.
So far, Tesla has been able to dodge some state laws that prohibit selling cars directly to consumers, but that’s only because Tesla doesn’t compete with any of those dealerships — simply because they don’t sell Tesla cars.
The four states still blocking Tesla’s direct sales won 34% of the vote to win the Luddite Award, which was chosen by the general public after 10 finalists were announced Jan. 5. The runner-up was the NRA’s opposition to “smart guns,” which got 27% of the vote, followed by the group Stop Smart Meters, which, you guessed it, wants to prevent innovation in meters and cars.