Showing posts with label cars. Show all posts
Showing posts with label cars. Show all posts

Friday, October 11, 2013

Federal Judge Prohibits Bentley "Car Kits"

If you are an upwardly mobile driver who can only afford a Ford but still wants to be seen around town driving a Bentley, before becoming a millionaire and spending a few hundred thousand dollars, you might have considered the Bentley "car kit."

The idea was to take a cheaper car and deck it out with sufficient copycat parts and trim elements to mimic a luxury automobile.  The only problem is that such a creative approach infringes upon the luxury car maker's trademarks and patents, at least according to a federal judge in Florida.

British luxury car manufacturer Bentley Motors, which is owned by Volkswagen Group of America, sued Matthew McEntegart and Fugazzi Cars in St. Petersberg, Florida, alleging that they had infringed upon the car maker's trademarks and patents by selling Bentley car kits.

McEntegart, for his part, had mounted an ineffective legal defense and ended up filing for bankruptcy.

He defended by asserting that he had used disclaimers that the molds used for the parts were not genuine Bentley molds, and that he had done nothing except paint cars that were already outfitted with the car kits.  The defense apparently wasn't persuasive and the Court entered an injunction against further sales.  A hearing on damages is scheduled for later this year.

Previous cases in Florida have directly addressed the issue of "car kits," with Ferrari previously winning such a case against a similar car kit maker.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Online Electric Car Sales May Be Banned in North Carolina: Consumer Protection or Corporate Protectionism?

Tesla Motors Headquarters in Silicon Valley
/ Wikimedia Commons
Fox News is reporting that an effort is underway in the North Carolina legislature to effectively prohibit the Palo Alto, California-based Tesla Motors car company from directly selling its popular electric cars online to consumers located within the Tarheel state.

Consumer protection is the ostensible rationale offered by the state's legislators who have introduced a bill that would effectively require that a franchised local dealership actually sell the electric cars to consumers.
Tesla's Roadster / Wikimedia Commons

Tesla is known for setting up showrooms that display and allow inspection of the sample electric cars, but the actual sale of the car is transacted entirely online.  By cutting out the franchised dealer as the "middleman," Tesla effectively removes local dealerships from the process.  Reportedly, as many as 80 Tesla electric cars have already been sold to North Carolina residents.

Tesla says that its time-intensive customer service model just won't translate well to franchised dealers, and that most consumers would laugh at the notion that they're better served by the existing system, which requires an unnecessary local transaction. Tesla said the dealers' true interest is maintaining total control over the retail auto industry.

Experts note that Tesla could try to lobby for a federal law or seek a ruling from federal courts that would apply across the U.S. That strategy could include making a case based on the U.S. Constitution's Commerce Clause, which says only Congress can regulate interstate commerce.  Courts have also held that the Constitution forbids localities from discriminating against out-of-state companies, solely to protect locals.

However, the car company would need to prove that the legislature was targeting it specifically when it passes the proposed law, and that the consumer protection rationale is a pretext.