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Legislators ordered to turn over communications in Tesla case

Flickr User Marcus Pink

Two state lawmakers are reviewing their options after a judge ordered them to turn over e-mails and other communications related to a law that effectively barred Tesla from selling electric cars in Michigan.

The lawmakers tried to claim a privacy privilege that protected their communications with a lobbyist for the Michigan Automobile Dealers Association. Tesla is suing the state over a law that essentially barred the company from selling cars in Michigan using company-owned stores and showrooms. Michigan requires that new vehicles be sold via independent dealerships that are franchised by the manufacturer. Tesla says that’s unconstitutional.

Tesla Motors wants to see communications going back a year before the Legislature adopted a bill that made it harder for the company to sell its electric cars in Michigan. Michigan is one of a handful of states that requires auto manufacturers to franchise independent dealers. Tesla uses company-owned stores and showrooms. The car company says Michigan’s law is unconstitutional and protects the Detroit Three and auto dealers at the expense of consumers.

State Senator Joe Hune and state Representative Jason Sheppard chair committees that crafted the bill that reinforces the law that requires independent dealerships. The lawmakers could appeal the judge’s order.

Rick Pluta is the Capitol Bureau Chief for the Michigan Public Radio Network. He is heard daily on WCMU's Morning Edition and All Things Considered.