Michigan is the most populated state in the US that still doesn’t have a Tesla store or service center. It’s not for lack of trying on Tesla’s part. The company has been trying to obtain a dealer license, but a 2014 law prohibiting direct sales from automakers has been preventing them.
Their latest attempt has been through the court since they filed a lawsuit against the state last year after claiming that the ban on direct sales violates commerce laws and that it was pushed by car dealers and GM.
As part of the discovery for the suit, Tesla is trying to force two lawmakers to turn over any communication with car dealer and automaker lobbyists, but the state is trying to prevent that. And the reason they are giving is almost incriminating.
Update: Judge ruled this morning that they will have to produce all 3rd party communications regarding Tesla and the legislation.
The two lawmakers targeted by Tesla’s subpoenas are Sen. Joe Hune, R-Gregory, and Rep. Jason Sheppard, R-Lambertville.
Hune is the senator who introduced the last-minute amendment that created the ban in 2014 and his wife, Marcia Hune, is a lobbyist for car dealerships.
As for Sheppard, he is being subpoenaed because Tesla claimed that he confirmed to one of their representatives that the reason behind the ban is that “Michigan auto dealers and manufacturers don’t want Tesla in Michigan”.
The lawmakers are represented by Assistant Attorney General Rock Wood, who has been opposing the disclosure in a hearing before U.S. Magistrate Judge Ellen Carmody yesterday and continuing today.
Wood argues that the disclosure would have quite a negative impact. Detroit Free Press reported:
“If Carmody allows access to lawmakers’ records in such a case, there will be a raft of lawsuits aimed at harassing and intimidating lawmakers to the extent that “legislators are spending all their time on this, and can’t legislate,” Wood said.”
It sounds like he is saying that if people and companies would know what lawmakers and lobbyists are saying behind closed doors, they would want to sue, intimidate, and harass them.
I mean, now we really want to see those communications.
Wood also argued that such disclosure have only been ordered for criminal cases and civil cases related to voting rights and redistricting. He said:
“This is a case by Tesla for Tesla and nobody else. They can’t say this is a case for the greater good.”
On the other hand, Tesla argues that the ban affects not only them but all consumers by forcing them to only buy cars from franchise dealerships.
The hearing continues today and the judge should decide whether or not we will get to see those communications.