Tesla is currently not allowed to sell or service its electric vehicles in the state of Michigan. Despite that, the company applied for a license -- for franchised dealerships.
While this might seem like a change in direction for the electric-only automaker, there's more to it than that.
Michigan defines its Class A license as being for "a licensed new vehicle dealer [that] buys and sells new vehicles under a franchise agreement or contract with the manufacturer of the new vehicle." One might assume that signals Tesla's willingness to open up a franchised model in the state, but automakers aren't usually the ones to file for these licenses -- that is left to individual dealers, unrelated to the automaker itself.
Instead, Tesla appears to be feeling out the state's 2014 law banning a manufacturer from selling its cars to the public without a middleman. "As recently amended, current Michigan law prohibits Tesla from being able to license its own sales and service operations in the state," said a Tesla spokesperson in an email. "Submission of the application is intended to seek the Secretary of State's confirmation of this prohibition."
"Once confirmed, Tesla will review any options available to the Company to overturn this anti-consumer law," added the spokesperson.
Back in October 2014, Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder amended a law regarding direct-to-consumer automobile sales, removing a single word -- "its" -- which Tesla took personally, according to The Detroit News. The company's current sales model involves manufacturer-owned sales offices and service facilities, many of which are operated in states with loopholes allowing the practice.