As a Tesla lawsuit over the state of Michigan's dealership franchise law grinds on, the Silicon Valley automaker scored a recent legal victory.

A federal magistrate has ordered two Michigan lawmakers to turn over their communications to the company's lawyers, including emails they sent to lobbyist groups.

State Senator Joe Hune and State Representative Jason Sheppard will be required to hand over all documents and communications to Tesla for "attorneys' eyes only."

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Both individuals have played a part in the ongoing lawsuit, and Tesla claims Hune backed the controversial legislation in part due to his wife's lobbyist background.

Additionally, Sheppard allegedly told Tesla it will “not be allowed to operate in Michigan because Michigan dealers and manufacturers do not want Tesla in the state,” according to The Detroit News.

Now, Hune must provide all communications between the dates of October 21, 2013, through April 21, 2015; Sheppard must produce documents from January 1, 2015, through December 31, 2016.

Tesla Store Los Angeles [photo: Misha Bruk / MBH Architects]

Tesla Store Los Angeles [photo: Misha Bruk / MBH Architects]

The state's franchise law, which was quietly revised and then signed by Governor Snyder in 2014, requires automakers to sell vehicles only via an independently owned and franchised dealership.

Tesla owns and operates its stores directly and does not adhere to the traditional dealership model.

That means it is effectively been banned from doing business in the state of Michigan.

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Instead, customers must have their Tesla vehicles delivered to a neighboring state, such as Illinois or Ohio, and then register the car in Michigan.

Michigan is more than happy to collect the taxes on registration fees for new Tesla vehicles, however.

Attorney General Bill Schuette, who is defending the state in the lawsuit, reiterated that Michigan has always banned automakers from operating their own dealerships, claiming the revised language was not meant to single out Tesla.

2018 Tesla Model 3

2018 Tesla Model 3

Michigan Governor Rick Snyder originally said the bill "clarifies and strengthens" existing law "about direct auto sales" in the state.

However, he also added he's open to a discussion surrounding the bill and said any revisions should benefit Michigan consumers, first and foremost.

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The state's defense believes Tesla is simply looking to bend the law in its own favor and seeks special treatment.

With the discovery phase in full effect, no settlement is in sight for either Tesla or the state of Michigan.


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