Legislation pending in Michigan that would limit direct vehicle sales in the state has narrowed to remove an exemption for Tesla, a change that major automakers say softened their earlier opposition to the bill.
Its chances of passing, however, are not certain in the waning days of Michigan's two-year legislative term. The amended bill passed the state House this month, but it was pulled from consideration in a state Senate committee this week. The Michigan Senate has no plans to extend session days beyond Dec. 17, a spokeswoman for the Republican Senate majority leader told Automotive News, nor has the chamber made a final decision on whether the bill will come up for a vote.
Bills not passed by the end of the year are considered dead and must be reintroduced in the new term that starts in January.
If the narrower version is signed into law, opponents say it leaves Michigan vulnerable to more litigation — both from Tesla and from startup electric vehicle makers that want to follow Tesla's direct-sales path.
"If this is such a great solution, why is it being rammed through during a lame-duck [session], rather than having this done out in the open with all of the stakeholders at the table?" Jim Chen, Rivian's vice president of public policy, told Automotive News. "This smacks of secret deals, last-minute pushes, to basically shut out a company with a substantial Michigan presence and who wants to invest in Michigan."
House Bill 6233 was introduced in September, backed by Michigan's franchised auto dealers, to codify an agreement between Tesla and the state of Michigan this year that resolves a federal lawsuit the company filed in 2016 against the state's direct-sales ban. The stipulation allows Tesla to operate galleries in Michigan, though the vehicle title must be transferred in another state. The agreement also allows Tesla to operate service centers indirectly through a subsidiary.
Terry Burns, executive vice president of the Michigan Automobile Dealers Association, did not return calls seeking comment this week about the revised bill.
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's office this week said she was reviewing the amended bill.