Automotive > Infotainment & Telematics Blog

Michigan Allows SDCs; Still Bars Tesla

by Roger Lanctot | 12月 14, 2016

The U.S. principality of Michigan lowered its trade barriers to Silicon Valley-inspired self-driving cars with legislation allowing autonomous vehicles to be tested, deployed and sold in the state. Legislators proclaimed that the four bill package put Michigan "in the driver's seat," in the words of the Detroit News vis-a-vis autonomous vehicle development and deployment. A more accurate assessment might be that Michigan has now caught up with eight other U.S. states that have opened their doors to autonomous vehicles. - Snyder Signs New Michigan Self-Drive Vehicle Law - The Detroit News

What Michigan has not done is allowed Tesla Motors to sell its own autopilot-equipped cars in the state. In spite of that bar, Tesla has opened a "gallery" in a Nordstrom department store at the Somerset Collection shopping mall in Troy, according to GreenCarReports.

The 700-square-foot space houses a single white Tesla Model X crossover, according to the report, and may be on display for six months. Michigan legislators were at a loss as to whether or how to respond to the display's opening. Michigan has also yet to respond to Tesla's lawsuit challenging its bar to opening retail locations.

So Michigan suddenly finds itself threading an absurd needle. It is okay for car makers or any organization to create networks of shared autonomous cars and or hail-able driverless taxis independent of dealers, but Tesla cannot sell cars directly to consumers in Michigan.

There are a few lessons here. First of all, the companies that operate taxis and rental cars in Michigan need to hook up with the lobbyists working on behalf of new car dealers. Clearly the political clout of new car dealers far exceeds the leverage of taxi and rental car owners and operators.

Second of all, if car makers want to offer transportation services directly to consumers in Michigan without the involvement of dealers they are free to do so with or without consumers behind the wheel. I think I have that right.

So, yes, Michigan is in the driver seat and heading for a cliff of logical legislative folly. Michigan legislators proclaimed that their legislation was intended to get the government out of the way of progress, yet government still has its thumb on the scales favoring backward looking new car dealers as regards Tesla. (One imagines Michigan legislators sneering the word "TESla" in the way that Jerry Seinfeld used to say "NEWman" whenever referring to his nemesis on the situation comedy.)

In the end, they are doing the dealers no favors. New car dealers need to wake up to the changes sweeping the industry. It's not just that car makers are beginning to offer transportation directly to consumers. Car makers are also diving directly into the fleet business - a core lifeline for many dealers.

Self-driving cars are likely to be operated as transportation networks - by definition fleets of cars. Thus far, dealers have more or less been excluded or opted out of this opportunity... evidently at their peril.

Car makers are also erasing the service proposition that is the life blood of dealers - as the industry shifts and is being pushed toward electrification. The GMAuthority newsletter notes that the Chevy Bolt represents a veritable desert of dealer service opportunity:

"Specifically, the Bolt EV’s manual recommends tire rotations every 7,500 miles, cabin air filter replacements every 22,500 miles and a coolant flush at 150,000 miles. Regardless of mileage, the manual also recommends brake fluid changes every five years. That’s it." In others words, almost zero maintenance for the first 150,000 miles in the words of GMAuthority.

Not even the cuddly Michigan legislature can create service opportunities where none exist. This emerging dust bowl of service opportunity arising from electrification and embodied in Tesla's ongoing success is a key reason that dealers remain a significant impediment to EV adoption. Dealers simply see no future in selling EVs.

Sooner or later, the Michigan legislature will wake up and realize the degree to which it has been hoodwinked into protecting a Luddite lobby of the highest order. Dealers are dragging their heels in adjusting their operations to accommodate the emergence of electrification and new vehicle ownership and usage models.

Not even the mighty Michigan legislature can protect the franchise dealer lobby from reality. It is a minor irony that the legislature's previous stance on self-driving cars was intended to impede the incursions of the likes of Google from testing self-driving cars but had the unintended effect of disadvantaging the development efforts of local car makers.

Maybe the expense and distraction of fighting Tesla Motors in court will prove onerous enough to wake up local law makers. In the meantime, Tesla aficionados will continue driving to Ohio and Illinois to take deliveries of their new wheels.

As for charging those Tesla's? Mlive reports that Tesla maintains multiple charging and supercharging locations throughout the state:

  • The Atheneum Suite Hotel, 1000 Brush St., Detroit
  • Roostertail Entertainment Complex, 100 Marquette Drive, Detroit.
  • Hampton Inn Monroe, 1565 N Dixie Hwy, Monroe.
  • The Townsend Hotel, 100 Townsend St., Birmingham.
  • Sheraton Hotel Ann Arbor, 3200 Boardwalk Drive, Ann Arbor.
  • Meijer, 3145 Ann Arbor-Saline Road, Ann Arbor (Supercharger).
  • Airway Fun Center, 5626 Portage Road, Portage.
  • Grand Rapids Ranch Bed & Breakfast, 8769 East Paris Ave. SE, Caledonia.
  • Meijer, 5531 28th Street SE, Grand Rapids (Supercharger)
  • Best Western Port Huron, 2282 Water St., Port Huron.
  • The Blue Water Convention Center, 500 Thomas Edison Pkwy, Port Huron (Supercharger)
  • Meijer, 2980 E Wilder Road, Bay City (Supercharger)

Get with the program, Michigan. Resistance is futile and the future awaits.

Previous Post: #CES2017: Aftermarket to the Rescue | Next Post: Mindboggling Uber Hubris

Let's talk

Now you know a little about us, get in touch and tell us what your business problem is.
Inquiry / Message:

please enter captcha from left