Tesla vs State of Michigan: car dealers fear disclosure of their role in banning Tesla’s sales

Tesla’s lawsuit against the state of Michigan is getting more interesting with every development as it shines a light on the role of lobbyists who clearly want to stay in the dark.

After two legislators, now a lobbyist for the car dealers association is fighting Tesla’s subpoena to make him disclose communications he had relating to the bill that resulted in the direct sales ban that is currently blocking Tesla from selling its vehicles in the state.

As we previously reported, 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.

Last year, Tesla filed a lawsuit against the state after claiming that the ban on direct sales violates commerce laws and that it was pushed by car dealers and GM in an attempt to block the electric automaker.

As part of the discovery process last month, Tesla filed to have two lawmakers turn over any communication with car dealers and automaker lobbyists about the ban. The judge ruled in favor of Tesla.

Now a third person is subject to Tesla’s request to disclose their communications relating to the ban on direct sales, Kurt Berryman, the man in charge of government relations for the Michigan Auto Dealers Association and the Detroit Auto Dealers Association.

In a new motion last week (embedded in full below), Berryman said that he was becoming a social pariah within his car dealer circle since receiving the subpoena:

“Due to the fact that I have been served a subpoena seeking documents and related communications with dealers regarding Tesla and legislation that relates to the direct sale or service of vehicles by manufacturers to consumers, I have already begun to suffer cognizable harm and my speech and participation with the Associations has been chilled.”

He then goes on to explain that car dealers and legislators have stopped talking to him in fear that their communications with him would have to be turned over and be disclosed by Tesla’s efforts to shine a light on their role in banning direct sales in the state.

Berryman even listed meetings where he was disinvited following Tesla’s request last month.

But his most interesting complaint about the disclosure is that he thinks that releasing his communications about the ban on Tesla’s sales will bring him hate mail – or more hate mail since he brought up two examples from back in 2014 when he pushed the bill:

That’s two examples from back in 2014, which Berryman refers to as “harassing, threatening, and hateful emails”. He thinks that the “reprisal” will be even worse if he releases his communications.

Does that sound like a red flag to anyone? Let us know what you think in the comment section below.

Here’s the motion in full:

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