Free Tesla, say 100,000 signers of White House petition

Petition submitted to the White House backs direct sales of Tesla's electric cars, which aren't sold at dealerships. It's now garnered enough signatures to require an official response.

Charles Cooper Former Executive Editor / News
Charles Cooper was an executive editor at CNET News. He has covered technology and business for more than 25 years, working at CBSNews.com, the Associated Press, Computer & Software News, Computer Shopper, PC Week, and ZDNet.
Charles Cooper
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Vox populi. Screenshot by Charles Cooper/CNET

More than 100,000 people have signed a White House petition to allow Tesla Motors to sell its electric cars directly to the public, which means the White House must issue a response.

The White House says it will review any We the People petitions that muster sufficient support -- 100,000 signatures within 30 days -- and then send them on to "appropriate policy experts" before issuing an official reply.

The idea behind the petition, posted June 5, came from a Tesla fan going by the name of Ken -- declining to reveal his full name -- who recently told CNET he doesn't think "states should prevent direct car sales." Ken said he doesn't work for Tesla but owns stock in the company.

Representatives for the White House and Tesla were not immediately available. We've reached out for comment and will update the post when there's more information.

This is part of a bigger battle between Tesla, which doesn't go through dealer distribution, and certain states, which are trying to protect local auto retailers by blocking direct sales of vehicles. The analogy is imprecise but there's a long history of tension between retail and direct sales when it comes to high-technology products. In the 1980s, for instance, computer stores built up thriving businesses, charging top dollar for products that at the time were little understood by the public.

That hand-holding translated into fat margins for computer dealers, who were able to ride the initial boom in popularity that followed the introduction of IBM's first PC in 1981. But that era would be over by the end of the decade as retailers came under increasing pressure from mail order upstarts, such as Dell Computer and Gateway 2000.

The White House launched the We the People petitioning platform in October 2011.