A last-minute amendment to a bill passed by Michigan lawmakers before the end of their state legislative season would effectively ban electric automakers Tesla Motors from operating in their state, Bloomberg News reported on Friday.
"We were in open dialogue, and were anticipating discussing this in the legislature in the coming year," Tesla vice president of business development Diarmuid O'Connell said. "Dealers, under the cover of darkness, are foreclosing that debate, I can only assume because they don't like their prospects in the public debate that we seek."
The bill originally barred auto companies from telling dealers to charge customers less than 5 percent for "documentation fees." State law sets the maximum charge for those fees at $200.
According to the Detroit News, an amendment was introduced on Oct. 2 prohibiting auto sales in the state "directly to a retail customer other than through franchised dealers."
The bill was passed shortly afterwards. Gov. Rick Snyder (R) has until Oct. 21 to sign it into law. The Michigan Automobile Dealers Association took credit for the amendment, but vice president Terry Burns denied targeting Tesla with the move, saying it was "clarification" for the current law.
"People have asked me is this an attempt to keep Tesla out. No," Burns told the Detroit News. "We would expect if Tesla wanted to operate in the state of Michigan that they would follow the laws."
The Tesla sales model currently calls for buyers to purchase their autos either directly from the company or from approved company outlets. Forbes reported that there are 50 registered Tesla owners in Michigan, but the closest sales outlet is in Columbus, Ohio.
"Many bills came over as the legislature finished the session," a spokesperson for Snyder said. "The governor is doing due diligence by examining all of them."
Earlier this year, Tesla announced that it would build a $5 billion auto "gigafactory" in Nevada, prompting lawmakers there to consider giving the company $1.3 billion in tax breaks.