The Kansas City Auto Show, which had hundreds of new vehicles, excluded Tesla due to its sales model. Tesla allows buyers to buy directly from the manufacturer, and dealerships don’t like that. Ellen McNamara with KCTV5 wanted to know why Tesla wasn’t allowed to participate in the auto show, which could have led to the company landing a few sales. The reason was that it sells directly to customers, bypassing the beloved middle man, your bombastic regional auto dealer.
Quite a few people were eager to share with McNamara their love for going to the auto show, which is an annual event in the area. “Going to the auto show has been a family tradition for decades,” says McNamara. One auto show attendee told her that he was looking for an SUV with a third row and that there were quite a few options there. (No one was on-hand to inform them of the Tesla Model Y.)
Ken Smiley, President of Tesla Owners Club KC, was also interviewed, representing Tesla, and showed the news team what many attending the auto show missed out on. “Typical automobile dealerships [are] probably uncomfortable with a manufacturer selling directly to the public. That’s a completely different model from the franchise model. So that’s disruptive to their business,” he explains. It wasn’t an all-out defense, but he was sharing the business perspective. The idea of competition coming to your show and making money off of your customers seems senseless — but they could have worked with Tesla instead of excluding them.
Smiley also took the news team along for a ride in his Model 3 and demonstrated the raw performance. “Oh, bleep” is the reaction (mine was similar when Wade demonstrated it for me in July of last year). Smiley also demonstrated the Summon feature, which brings your Tesla to you. “We’re actually in a Prius right now so it would have been nice to see a comparison,” says one attendee when she and her husband were asked about Tesla. Another attendee said, “They have the electric F-TYPE over there,” he says pointing to a Jaguar I-PACE, “but, no, I haven’t seen any Teslas. I wonder why that is.”
McNamara explained that the Automobile Dealers Association of Greater Kansas City puts on the auto show, and Tesla is not invited. In response to her questions, the KCADA gave this statement: “A Sales & Service Agreement with an automaker is the criteria to join the Association. Tesla’s business model does not include franchised dealerships, thus they do not belong to the Association.”
There were a total of 25 hybrid and electric vehicles shown at the auto show. Since Tesla wasn’t allowed to participate, Smiley and the local area Tesla owners and enthusiasts set up outside of the show. Smiley told McNamara that the Tesla Owners Club would have a display and there would be several Tesla models on display — the S, 3, and X. They even gave test rides.