Tesla sues Michigan officials over state bar on sales

September 22, 2016 11:55 AM EDT

The company's logo is seen at a Model X car of U.S. manufacturer Tesla in Zurich, Switzerland August 17, 2016 REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann

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By David Shepardson

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Tesla Motors Inc Thursday sued Michigan Governor Rick Snyder and other state officials in federal court over the state's refusal to allow the Palo Alto, California automaker to sell vehicles directly to consumers.

The suit at U.S. District Court in Michigan comes days after the state rejected the electric vehicle manufacturer's application to directly sell vehicles to consumers. Unlike other automakers, Tesla does not sell vehicles through franchised dealers. Tesla's suit says it is seeking on an expedited basis an order that it is "entitled to a vehicle dealer license."

A spokesman for Snyder said the governor had no comment.

Tesla currently operates stores in 23 U.S. states and the District of Columbia and 20 other countries.

Tesla has said it cannot get a license to sell vehicles in four states: Michigan, Texas, Connecticut and Utah, and it faces limits in some states on how many stores it can operate.

Tesla said in a statement it filed the suit to ask a judge to strike down a 2014 Michigan law that bars Tesla from selling or repairing vehicles in the state.

Tesla said for two years it has pursued a legislative solution.

All U.S. states bar manufacturers with dealers from selling directly to consumers. Auto dealers have lobbied states for several years to bar Tesla from operating or to limit its operations.

"Unfortunately, the local auto dealers and local manufacturers have made clear that they oppose any law that would allow Tesla to operate in Michigan," Tesla's statement said. "As one leading legislator told Tesla: the local auto dealers do not want you here. The local manufacturers do not want you here. So you’re not going to be here."

(Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and David Gregorio)

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