Strange bedfellows: Consumer groups, Koch brothers unite for Tesla stores

The famously conservative Koch brothers have teamed up with groups like the Sierra Club and Environmental America to urge lawmakers to support Tesla's direct sales business model, which has fought auto dealers in several states. 

Richard Vogel/AP/File
Shoppers check out the Tesla model S at the Tesla showroom at the the Third Street Promenade in Santa Monica, Calif. T

Over the past decade, the Koch Brothers have become a major political force, funneling money from their family company into organizations that support conservative politicians and causes--including the denial of climate change.

So Charles and David Koch wouldn't seem like enthusiastic supporters of electric-car maker Tesla Motors.

Yet the Koch-funded group Americans for Prosperity is one of 10 signatories on a letter sent to U.S. governors and legislators urging them to support Tesla's direct-sales business model.

Tesla has fought auto-dealer associations in multiple states. They view the carmaker as a threat to the traditional franchised dealer model.

Yet that model doesn't work for Tesla, and enforcing it robs consumers of all possible choices, the letter (via Transport Evolved) says.

Sharing this sentiment with the Koch-funded group are the Sierra Club and Environmental America--groups from the opposite end of the political spectrum.

Another signatory was the Information Technology & Innovation Foundation, which nominated Arizona, Michigan, New Jersey, and Texas as finalists for the 2014 "Luddite Awards."

The Luddite Awards call out entities viewed as opposed to innovation--in this case four states with laws banning Tesla direct sales.

Support for both Tesla and increased competition in car sales brought all of these groups together.

"Some of us frequently find ourselves on different sides of public policy debates," the letter notes, but the groups involved are in agreement on this one issue.

The letter says current laws protecting franchised dealers were intended to prevent carmakers from squashing independent dealers with their own stores.

That doesn't apply to Tesla, which has sold cars directly to customers from the beginning.

Echoing past comments from Tesla officials, the letter said the carmaker needed to go the direct route because traditional franchised dealers have been "unwilling or unable to promote electric-vehicle sales with sufficient expertise or vigor."

However, the signatories note that their concerns are not limited to Tesla, saying existing laws negatively impact "any company seeking to distribute cars directly to customers."

Perhaps it's that emphasis on free-market competition that got a Koch-backed group to stand alongside the likes of the Sierra Club.

If so, it shows that Tesla's sales model could have a wider base of support than one might initially think.

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