James Chen, Tesla's VP of regulatory affairs, speaks at a Michigan Energy Innovation Business Council event in Lansing.

Q&A: Tesla still looking to break into Michigan’s retail market

In October 2014, Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder signed a bill that effectively banned electric-vehicle manufacturer Tesla Motors Inc. from selling its products directly from storefronts here to customers. While Snyder said at the time the bill simply clarified existing law, 13 months later, the California-based company is still actively pushing lawmakers to reconsider the state’s position that Tesla supporters have criticized as an attack on free-market principals. West Virginia, Texas and Arizona also prohibit Tesla from directly selling to consumers. Earlier this year, even the Federal Trade Commission advised state lawmakers in an 11-page letter that Michigan’s policy is “protectionism”: “Michigan’s consumers would more fully benefit from a complete repeal of the prohibition on direct sales by all automakers.”

Despite being blocked from selling and servicing cars here (Tesla's closest retail stores are in Chicago and Cleveland), the company continues to invest in Michigan, particularly by providing business to parts suppliers. A few weeks ago, the company opened Tesla Tool and Die near Grand Rapids, a parts manufacturing facility it purchased from a previous supplier.