Snyder open to working with Tesla ‘in some fashion’

Michael Martinez
The Detroit News

Gov. Rick Snyder on Wednesday said the state of Michigan is still open to working with Tesla Motors Inc. to help sell its electric cars here — as long as it’s through the traditional dealer network.

The California-based manufacturer last week filed a lawsuit against Snyder and other officials. It’s part of an ongoing battle between Michigan and Tesla; the company wants to sell vehicles directly to customers while state law requires vehicles be sold through dealer networks.

The federal suit challenges Michigan law as unconstitutional rather than arguing Tesla’s right to operate under state laws, and comes after the state officially denied Tesla a new-dealership license earlier this month.

“They have a right to bring a suit if they want,” Snyder told The Detroit News in his first public comments about the matter since the lawsuit was filed. “We’ve always been open to working with them in some fashion.”

Snyder was speaking at a reception that was part of the World Mobility Leadership Forum. The state has created an ad campaign, called Planet M, to market the Great Lakes state as a leader in mobility and emerging autonomous vehicle technologies.

Snyder doesn’t believe the state will be at a disadvantage if it continues to shut-out a manufacturer that has become a major player in implementing driverless technology and advanced electric powertrains.

“I think if you look at what’s going on with mobility, we’re clearly the leader,” he told The News. “I’m always open-minded to working with people, they just need to work through the traditional legislative process or, as they’ve apparently decided, to go through the courts instead.”

There are no countries where Tesla hasn’t been able to sell directly, and the only states in the U.S. where it hasn’t been able to get a license are Michigan, Texas, Connecticut and Utah.

Snyder said he hasn’t heard from Tesla CEO Elon Musk, and wasn’t involved in the on-going discussions; Tesla was working directly with the Secretary of State, who works to provide dealership licenses, he said.

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Twitter: @MikeMartinez_DN