Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Could someone explain the market failure that protecting car dealerships solves?

The Wall Street Journal has a good story today about how car dealerships are (successfully) lobbying legislatures to ban Tesla Motors from marketing their cars directly to consumers.  GOP legislators, who get the willies about regulation that actually solves real problems, are on board with supporting protectionist policies for auto dealerships.

Does anyone really think that the industrial organization of the automobile retail industry works well?  My family buys a car every five years or so, and our experience is that no one tries to exploit asymmetric information like auto dealers.  I have lots of reasons to believe that our experiences are not unique.

What amazes me is that even in the age of the internet, when one can use sites like Edmunds to figure out what to pay for a car, dealers start out by assuming that the consumer is stupid, hope they get an absurdly marked up price, and only get reasonable when they find out their customer actually knows something.

Elon Musk is a visionary in many ways.  With the Tesla, he might make two important contributions--he might free  from petroleum, and he might free us from car dealers.