Tesla Model S Named Automobile Magazine’s 2013 ‘Car of the Year,’ Car Dealers Not Amused

It’s Electric! The gasoline-free Tesla Model S “epitomizes efficiency, embodying the grace and performance of a world-class athlete,” says lead designer Franz von Holzhausen.

Upstart automaker Tesla has been busy earning its share of cheers and jeers. Autombile Magazine has selected the Tesla Model S as its 2013 Automobile of the Year (the third-generation Porsche Boxster earned Design of the Year honors). “We weren’t expecting much from the Tesla other than some interesting dinner conversation as we considered ‘real’ Automobile of the Year candidates, but in fact, the Tesla blew them all away,” writes associate editor David Zenlea in an article that will appear in the January 2013 issue. How? The car’s pure electric powertrain, long driving range, and performance, with a “crazy speed [that] builds silently and then pulls the edges of your face back,” according to Automobile editor-in-chief Jean Jennings.

However, the the Model S’s sleekly flush door handles (they power out to meet the passenger), 17-inch touchscreen (to tweak audio, navigation, climate, and other vehicle functions), and 265-mile range-cum-battery life aren’t enough to win over everyone. The country’s 18,000 new-car dealers, accustomed to getting a sweet slice of sales, are up at arms at Tesla’s bold move to sell directly to consumers: at a growing network of Tesla stores and online, where you can reserve your Model S for a (fully refundable) $5,000. Some dealers have already lobbed lawsuits at Tesla for circumventing the longstanding automaker-dealer system (which is governed by state laws). Elon Musk is undaunted. “Existing franchise dealers have a fundamental conflict of interest between selling gasoline cars,” the Tesla CEO told the Los Angeles Times. “It is impossible for them to explain the advantages of going electric without simultaneously undermining their traditional business.”