Rick Snyder Signs GM-Backed Michigan Tesla Ban
As if the world needed another reason to dislike General Motors (notorious for killing no fewer than 29 people with faulty vehicles), the Detroit automaker came out on Tuesday in support of HB 5606. The bill, which was then signed into law by Michigan Governor Rick Snyder the same day, features an amendment backdoored in by Republican State Senator Joe Hune that effectively bans Tesla’s model of direct-to-consumer sales.
Said a GM spokesperson (probably wearing a crushed black velvet robe in the middle of a chalk-drawn pentagram in a burnt-out wine cellar at the edge of Detroit):
General Motors applauds Governor Snyder’s signing of HB 5606. This will provide stability and support for our dealers, who are focused on delivering a world-class sales and service experience for our customers. Further, it will ensure we compete under the same rules in the marketplace as other automobile manufacturers.
If there’s anything that GM knows better than anyone else, it’s playing by the same rules as everyone else. By that logic, every other automaker is owed at least one massive company-wide cover-up of procedural failings and $12 billion in bailout money. GENERAL MOTORS? MORE LIKE GENERAL MORONS, AMIRITE?
The move to ban Tesla in Michigan was—not terribly surprisingly—spearheaded by the state’s network of dealer groups. Whether the move is in the best interest of Michigan car buyers or isn’t (and it isn’t) is irrelevant: Rick Snyder’s choice was never in question thanks to the power of the dealership lobby.
Given that Snyder is up for reelection and holding onto a slim lead in the polls, not signing the bill would have almost guaranteed that he would become the subject of attack ads paid for by slighted Michigan dealers. They’d probably paint him as “being in the pocket of big government” or “suckling at the teat of West Coast liberals like Elon Musk.” But now that he’s signed HB 5606 into law, he’s right back where he belongs: suckling the teat of Michigan auto dealerships.
So for those of you keeping score at home, HB 5606 is now law because of its effect on politicians and not because it is better for consumers. Stop me if you’ve heard that one before…
Said Snyder: “We should always be willing to re-examine our business and regulatory practices with an eye toward improving the customer experience for our citizens and doing things in a more efficient and less costly fashion.”
This could be the first documented instance of a politician saying one thing and then doing the exact opposite.
Back in the real world, Tesla understands that this is another effort from dealerships—backed by GM, no less—to squash any sort of competition, let alone competition that offers a superior product and undermines their precious franchise dealership system:
What’s good for GM’s customers is not necessarily good for Tesla’s customers. What’s good for gasoline cars is not necessarily good for electric cars. Tesla is selling a new product with a new technology. The evidence is overwhelming that a traditional dealer-based approach does not work for electric cars. Moreover, GM distorts the purpose of the franchise laws (including in Michigan), which are in place not to cement a monopoly for franchised dealers but rather to prevent companies with existing franchises from unfairly competing against them. Tesla has never used franchised dealers, so these concerns are simply irrelevant. It’s only through the last-minute amendment to HB 5606 that Michigan law would be distorted into something entirely different.
Because it wouldn’t be GM if there wasn’t a tone-deaf response that totally misses the point, company spokeswoman Heather Rosenker told Jalopnik: “Competition is always healthy, but it needs to be on a level playing field.”
Again, that claim of a level playing field. GM is the equivalent of a gay-basher calling the push for marriage equality “bullying.”
How out of touch is the move to ban Tesla in Michigan? So bad that even reputable billionaire/crazy-ass Dan Gilbert thinks it “sends a bad message.”
“To me you have to have a philosophy and you have to stick to it and you can’t let your personal circumstances compromise that,” Gilbert said on CNBC’s Squawk Box.
If Dan “Thanks, LeBron” Gilbert is right, this might also be the first documented instance of a politician voting one way or another for the entirely wrong reasons.
Gilbert even went so far as to criticize the dealership lobby, asking: “Why don’t you man up and compete like everybody else does?”
Wait. Something’s off there.
Michigan and the dealership cult can battle change to their hearts’ content, but Tesla is not going to go quietly into that good night. It’s a basic rule of economics: if a company continues to deliver exciting products and think three steps into the future, all while delivering on its promises and generally not being douches to its consumers, it will thrive.
So long as Tesla innovates, it will succeed, dinosaurs be damned.