Count American auto dealers among those who have a problem with serial entrepreneur Elon Musk.
As James Surowiecki notes in the New Yorker, the New Jersey state government has declared that showrooms for Tesla, Musk’s electric car company, be shuttered.
Tesla has been banned in several states because it sells cars directly, rather than through independent dealers.
Although companies in other sectors, such as electronics (think Apple and Dell) can sell directly, 48 states mandate that auto sales must be handled by dealers.
The dealers maintain a significant political profile. State dealers associations spend millions on lobbyists and gubernatorial campaigns and legislative races.
At the federal level, the National Automobile Dealers Association spent $3 million last year on lobbyists, and doled out another $3 million to candidates in the 2012 elections.
Tesla hasn’t reported any D.C. lobbying activity since 2011. Its trade group, the Electric Drive Transportation Association, spent just $260,000 on lobbying last year.
Musk and other Tesla execs have indicated a preference for fighting one big battle nationally, rather than dozens of battles in the states.
“The challenge we face is that the auto dealers are very strong and very influential at the state level among the legislatures,” he said at the company’s annual meeting.
Musk, with a fortune estimated at $8.3 billion, certainly has the resources and the high media profile to wage a full-out war.