Tesla's Real Game Changer is Maintenance, or Rather Lack thereof

Trains and hyperloops for sure, but electric vehicles—autonomous or not—are the future of personal transportation. Yet the true disruptive dimension of electric cars is their reliability. This also partly helps explain why dealers don't like them. Tesla sold about 50,000 cars in 2015, which is a very small portion of the 17.5M cars sold in the US that year. So why are the dealers doing everything they can to try to stop them—often using what appears to be ludicrous arguments of 'unfair competition' as well as state legislation that awkwardly seems to fight innovation and new business models?

Reliability is an overlooked issue in this regard. Not only is Tesla trying to upgrade the car buying process from its current 1950s model, sidestepping the dealers to gain full control of the end to end car manufacturing and sales process. With the reliability of electric cars, Tesla is also revolutionizing car ownership. Traditionally, dealers have made a small cut on every new car they sold or leased, but in truth, they make most of their money (80/20) from handing out products designed to need service every 6-12 months and, after a couple of years, break down at regular intervals.

Electric cars hence threaten to shut down this vital income stream for the dealers. Even through Tesla is selling comparatively few cars, dealers are worried that other car manufacturers will eventually figure out where the market is heading and follow suit. This means that BMW, Mercedes, Audi, Ford, etc. will release more and more mainstream, low-maintenance electric vehicles. Even if these manufacturers continue to work through existing dealer networks, the dealers don't see where they would make their money.