Tesla has just gained a valuable ally in its battle to sell cars directly to customers: the Federal Trade Commission. The regulator now argues that state bans on direct sales are "protectionist," propping up the traditional dealership business model rather than protecting companies from unfair abuses by automakers. It's the "competitive process" that should decide which sales model is better, not the law. The FTC also doesn't buy the notion that Tesla's modest US sales (22,500 in 2013) are a threat to the wider industry (15 million). It believes that the only thing at risk is the old way of buying cars, which might not be necessary now that customers can skip the sales pitch and do most of their research online.