A few weeks ago, Ken Ortiz, the president of the New Mexico Auto Dealers Association, penned a letter to the editor of the Albuquerque Journal. The letter, which came 2–3 weeks after Tesla opened its first facility in the state, defended auto dealers’ practices and claimed that they’re actually better for the EV transition.
“Today, auto dealers from Farmington to Las Cruces and Roswell to Gallup have embraced the global challenge to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and continue to bring more EV and hybrid vehicles to market,” Ortiz said in the opening of the letter.
He points out that EVs and hybrids have been available from franchised auto dealers for 20 years, but doesn’t mention that this is basically just hybrids that have been available for that long. He also makes it sound like the dealer arrangement developed naturally due to consumer demand and needs, but failed to mention that state law doesn’t allow any other kind of arrangement in the state. Tesla opened a facility by getting permission from a tribe, and tribes are not subject to state law.
He closes the letter by saying:
“The existing NM franchise law lowers prices for consumers, generates independent businesses, promotes local investment and tax revenues in our communities, and creates good-paying jobs. The New Mexico auto dealers welcome any additional manufacturer who is willing to comply with this law. However, we do not support changing the existing law, especially to accommodate manufacturers who simply do not wish to comply with the already proven, effective and equitable law.”
While everything in the letter is technically correct, I still think it’s misleading. While dealers in Albuquerque and Santa Fe have been selling EVs since the Nissan LEAF came out, dealers drug their feet on EVs in most of the rest of the state. I know that even as recently as 6 months ago, I had to take my LEAF out of state and drive almost 100 miles to get work done because the nearest dealer was in Texas and the nearest New Mexico dealer that could work on it was in Albuquerque.
The situation does seem to be changing in places outside of Albuquerque and Santa Fe, but to make it sound like New Mexico’s auto dealers have been supportive of EVs statewide for two decades is a real stretch.
It’s also dishonest to make it sound like dealers drive prices down. Anyone following the rollout of the Ford Mustang Mach-E and other fairly popular EVs knows that dealers like to try to get buyers to pay above MSRP by as much as $10,000, and sometimes have a “take it or leave it” attitude about lowering the price to make a sale. They’re also known to play shady paperwork tricks and do other things to sell a car for more than the buyer thought.
While Tesla could definitely improve when it comes to sales and service, it’s really not honest to say that dealers are better. Nobody enjoys the dealer buying experience except maybe the salesman and his manager when they find a way to rip people off and make a few extra bucks.
People have been calling dealers “stealerships” for decades, and they’ve done little in recent times to change that. Crying for government to protect them wouldn’t help with that nearly as much as shedding the “Harry Wormwood” reputation would.