Last week, Tesla said it is closing almost all its dealership showrooms in order to cut costs as it steps up production and sales of its midpriced Model 3. If markets are to be believed, this isn't a good look; the company's stock price has tumbled in response. Closing retail stores could be a sign of desperation, a view reinforced by concurrent announcements that the company has reduced its earnings expectations and will be cutting jobs. And the news was certainly jarring, coming just a few weeks after Tesla said dealerships were an important part of its retail strategy. But there's a chance the move will turn out to be prescient. Tesla sells premium cars that cost a lot to make. And Tesla markets those cars differently from most of its competitors: it uses direct sales, rather than working through franchised dealerships — and there's no haggling on the price. Relying on direct sales means there's no dealer taking a cut or adding a markup. But in many states in the US, laws requiri...

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