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No end in sight for Tesla vs State of Michigan as Model 3 starts rolling out

While Tesla Model 3 deliveries are slowly starting and normally some deliveries should go to Michigan by the end of the year, the new electric vehicle will be more difficult to get in the state as Tesla’s lawsuit for the right to deliver and service cars in Michigan looks far from coming to an end.

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 change to the law prohibits direct sales from automakers, which is blocking them for obtaining the license.

Currently, Tesla buyers in Michigan have to buy online or in another state, where they also have to service their cars since the ban applies to service too. There are hundreds of Tesla owners in the state that decided to do it anyway, but it is undeniably complicating Tesla’s business and even more so when it comes to a higher volume vehicle like Model 3.

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.

The Detroit News now reports that there’s no end in sight for the conflict:

“The complicated legal battle appears far from resolution. Both sides are expected to provide a list of expert witnesses next month, and the pre-trial “discovery” phase of the case is expected to last through late February 2018. Final requests for a pre-motion conference are expected by March 26 and a trial date has not yet been set.”

Thousands of Model 3 reservation holders in Michigan would have liked a quick resolution in order to facilitate their buying process, but it looks like it will drag well into 2018.

Attorney General Bill Schuette, who is defending the state, still insist that the change to the 2014 bill had nothing to do with Tesla:

“All other car manufacturers desiring to sell in Michigan operate under this same requirement. But Tesla wants special treatment and refuses to bend to Michigan’s law; indeed, Tesla insists that Michigan should bend to Tesla’s innovative business plan and practices rather than Tesla altering its practices to comply with Michigan law.”

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.

One of the lawmakers, Sen. Joe Hune, R-Gregory, 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.

The other, Rep. Jason Sheppard, R-Lambertville, 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 company is also going after the communications of Kurt Berryman, a lobbyist Michigan Auto Dealers Association and the Detroit Auto Dealers Association. We reported on the effort in a report last month, Tesla vs State of Michigan: car dealers fear disclosure of their role in banning Tesla’s sales.

Since our report, which Jalopnik used for an article, Berryman claims that he is being harassed. The Detroit News reports:

“Indeed, Berryman claims he has been harassed since auto websites Jalopnik and Electrek reported on his fears last month. Unsympathetic online commenters responded to the stories by circulating his email address and a photo from his Facebook page showing his 2-year-old daughter posing in front of a Tesla.

“Especially love the picture of your daughter standing in front of the Teslas you are working so hard to get banned,” a critic said in a subsequent email Berryman shared with the court. “Wonder if she will grow up and realize how much of a (expletive) her dad was trying to stifle the EV revolution.”

Something Berryman used as an excuse in court not to have his communications about Tesla to be made public because he expects it would create even more harassment.

Electrek’s Take

Considering the state is claiming the change in language made in 2014 that blocked Tesla had nothing to do with the company and yet the lawmakers and lobbyists involved refused to disclose their communications about Tesla around that time, we think it’s important that it becomes public.

And while we encourage anyone to share their arguments with those people, we don’t encourage doing it with insults or threatening messages.

Even if you assume they are doing it out of corruption and can’t be reasoned with, it is obviously not helping.

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