Tesla stores and galleries in the U.S. (as of 10/9/2013)Enlarge Photo
Tesla Motors is in a curious position.
On the one hand, it's a start-up, creating high-tech automobiles that are hugely popular with eco-enthusiasts and early adopters. (Also: Norwegians.) If it produced almost anything else, it would be fighting shoppers off with sticks and bear mace.
On the other hand, Tesla is the first company to challenge the auto industry's status quo in decades -- maybe ever. Sure, other brands have come and gone: Alfa Romeo, Renault, Suzuki, to name a few. But they played by the rules, selling products through dealer networks just like the competition. Tesla, however, is trying to upend the conventional car-sales paradigm altogether -- and that has led to some curious coincidences. Alanis Morissette might call them ironic, if she's figured out the meaning of the word.
We took a long look at Tesla's North American map of stores and galleries and found some odd disparities -- particularly with regard to where customers can and can't see or buy vehicles like the Model S sedan. For example:
You can check out the Tesla Model S in Washington State, where Nirvana recorded Lithium, named for the stuff that helps power the Model S...but you can't see one in Wyoming, which sits on the biggest stash of lithium in the U.S.
You can glimpse the forward-thinking Model S in Missouri, birthplace of conservative icon Rush Limbaugh...but you can't see it in Louisiana, where devout progressive James Carville roams the streets in jogging shorts. (Yes, we have first-hand knowledge.)
You can peruse the Model S in North Carolina, proud home to some excellent American barbecue...but you can't in South Carolina, home of South of the Border.
You can see the Tesla Model S in Illinois, home of Barack Obama...but you can't do the same in Michigan, home of Chrysler, Ford, and General Motors. (Not surprising, really.)
You can check out the Tesla Model S in Florida, where insane car-related arrests seem to be the order of the day...but you can't see the Model S in any of the states that build most of America's cars: Alabama, Indiana, Kentucky, Mississippi, Ohio, or Tennessee. (Probably not surprising either.)
You can buy the Model S in Colorado, where you can also buy many other interesting green things...but you can't buy a Model S in Texas, where much of the ground is brown. (N.B. Technically speaking, Texans can buy a Model S, but they have to purchase it from a Tesla dealer in another state and have it delivered to some convenient place NOT in Texas, then arrange to drive or truck it to the Lone Star State. And yet, Tesla's still managed to sell a couple thousand units in Texas. Sounds furtive. Updated: see the comments below.)
You can see the Model S in Maryland, Virginia, and the District of Columbia, seats of green policy-making and its increasingly regulated cottage industries...but you can't see the Tesla Model S in libertarian-leaning New Hampshire, which is still trying to sell that Live Free Or Die stuff.
You can check out the Tesla Model S in Minnesota, just down the road from shutdown champion Congresswoman Michele Bachmann...but not in devoutly liberal Vermont, the first state to recognize same-sex civil unions.
You can buy a Tesla Model S in Arizona (along with a load of foreclosed real estate)...but you can't buy a Tesla Model S in Nevada, where pretty much everything else is on the table. And we mean everything.