You don't see a lot of Teslas in Michigan.

It's not because the three U.S. automakers headquartered there aren't interested in the electric cars produced by a Silicon Valley company founded just 12 years ago.

It's because state laws bar the company from selling its cars online to state residents—and Tesla has no interest in using old-style franchised dealerships.

DON'T MISS: Where Can Tesla Legally Sell Cars Directly To You? State-By-State Map

State franchise laws have been a battleground for the electric-car maker for the last five years.

Provisions in most such regulations barred automakers from selling directly to consumers where they would compete directly with existing franchised dealers, who feared makers could put them out of business.

But Tesla Motors had no franchised dealers to protect.

2016 Tesla Model S

2016 Tesla Model S

It says its company-owned stores have to educate potential buyers on the advantages of driving electric before any sales can take place, and it can do that better than third-party dealerships that sell mostly gasoline vehicles.

Still, starting in 2010 in Colorado, auto-dealer lobbyists have attempted to get franchise laws updated, state by state, to remove the "where they would compete" provision and flatly barred any automaker from selling directly to any buyer under any circumstances.

They've succeeded in some states, but not in others, leading to a patchwork of circumstances for potential Tesla buyers.

ALSO SEE: Michigan Gov Snyder Signs Anti-Tesla Bill Called 'Corrupt Politics At Its Worst' (Oct 2014)

In Michigan, the state's laws were updated in October 2014 in a last-minute bill that tweaked the franchise regulations to bar direct sales.

Dealer lobbyists and state governor Rick Snyder, who signed the bill, said the change was a "clarification" of the original law's intent.

At the time, the bill was called "corrupt politics at its worst" by Daniel Crane, a law professor at the University of Michigan. The last-minute amendment, he said, represented “a real travesty.”

2016 Tesla Model X with 2011 Tesla Roadster Sport, photographed by owner Bonnie Norman

2016 Tesla Model X with 2011 Tesla Roadster Sport, photographed by owner Bonnie Norman

As The Detroit News pointed out last week, not much has changed since then.

The newspaper obtained documents from the state through a Freedom of Information Act request that detail three years of negotiations between the carmaker and the state.

CHECK OUT: Tesla Vs Michigan: Dealership Application, Conservative Coalition, Ballot Push (Feb 2016)

Three weeks ago, Michigan's secretary of state effectively put a permanent hold on Tesla's application to sell cars itself in the state by requiring it to show it is a franchised dealer.

While Tesla has said that Michigan is "a very important state" for its sales, it also says selling its electric cars through third-party franchised dealers "is not an option."

Tesla Model 3 design prototype - reveal event - March 2016

Tesla Model 3 design prototype - reveal event - March 2016

Meanwhile, Bloomberg reported last month that Ford Motor Company paid $200,000 for one of the very first Tesla Model X electric crossover SUVs sold, so it could tear down the car to see how it was designed and built.

That would seem to indicate some interest on the part of at least one Michigan buyer.

The rest, however, remain out of luck.


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