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Car and Driver: Changing Tactics, Tesla May Use Franchise Dealerships to Sell Cars in Michigan


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-While Tesla has spent the last several years fighting for the right to sell its cars directly to consumers, it appears the automaker is considering a change in tactic, apparently applying to sell cars in Michigan through a traditional franchise dealership.


Detroit News reports that Tesla originally submitted applications in November, filing follow-up paperwork in the last few weeks. Fred Woodham, a spokesperson for the Michigan Secretary of State wouldn’t say what the follow-up information was, but he did say a decision should be made within a month or two.


If Tesla’s application is accepted, it would finally be able to begin selling and repairing cars in the state of Michigan, something that is currently illegal under the state’s laws.


The electric car manufacturer has had to fight hard to receive the right to sell its cars in many other states, but Michigan has been one of the most hostile towards allowing a direct sales model, even going so far as to rewrite its dealership laws to make sure Tesla couldn’t sell its cars in the state.


While it would appear to most consumers that states forcing automakers to sell their cars exclusively through dealerships is anti-competitive, dealer cartels have plenty of money to put lawmakers in their pockets. The bill Michigan Governor Rick Snyder signed to keep Tesla out of his state was even initiated by one such group, the Michigan Automobile Dealers Association—and backed by none other than General Motors.


It’s unlikely that those laws will change, so Tesla seems to be pursuing the alternate strategy of opening a law-abiding franchise dealership owned and operated by a party independent from the automaker. “Michigan Information & Research Service Inc., which first reported the Tesla applications, said that based on the Secretary of State applications in general, Tesla could contract with anyone to sell its cars, except itself,” reports Detroit News.


Even the Federal Trade Commission is on Tesla’s side, saying, “Consumers may benefit from the ability to buy cars directly from manufacturers–whether they are shopping for luxury cars or economy vehicles. The same competition principles should apply in either case.”


In protest of Michigan’s backwards ban on direct-to-consumer car sales, Tesla ended up skipping this year’s Detroit Auto Show.


Whether Tesla is done fighting to be able to sell its cars directly or not, something tells us this latest development is far from the end of the Tesla drama in Michigan.


This story originally appeared on Road & Track.


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