Tesla Motors has reportedly applied for a dealer license in Michigan, potentially sparking a legal battle in the Detroit Big Three’s home turf.
Governor Rick Snyder last year declined to veto legislation that would explicitly prohibit the California-based automaker from selling vehicles directly to consumers in the state. The company had accused a state senator of slipping language into an unrelated bill to ensure that all automakers — not just franchisors — can’t sell vehicles to customers.
The Michigan Secretary of State Office received the application in November and plans to make a decision “in the next month or two,” an agency spokesman told The Detroit News.
The move appears to mirror the fight in New Jersey, where dealer lobbyists last year pressured Governor Chris Christie and the state DMV to revoke Tesla’s retail licenses. The company responded with its own successful lobbying effort, resulting in new legislation that approved direct sales for automakers that do not have franchise networks.
Tesla has generally emerged victorious in its state-by-state battle over direct sales, receiving bipartisan support in most cases. Federal Trade Commission officials have also chimed in, arguing that restrictive laws are ‘bad policy’ that do not benefit consumers.
The situation will be closely watched in Michigan as Tesla attempts to take on the particularly strong influence of established automakers. General Motors has been the strongest opposition voice among the Big Three, arguing that all automakers should have to follow “the same rules” in the marketplace.
“The benefit of a nationwide network of thousands of dealerships is that General Motors customers never have to worry about driving to another state to buy, service or support their vehicles,” GM recently said in a statement.
GM’s comments have been derided as disingenuous, as antiquated laws are the only obstacle Tesla faces in attempting to build a nationwide network of showrooms and service centers.
Tesla has not yet publicly commented on its latest push to establish a sales presence in Michigan.