Michigan's Treasury owns stock in Tesla despite sales ban, report says

By David Muller | dmuller@mlive.com

DETROIT - Tesla Motors may be banned from selling its vehicles directly to consumers in Michigan, but that hasn't stopped the state's Department of Treasury from investing in 339,623 shares worth some $72 million for state retirement funds.

That's according to the Detroit News, which reports that the Treasury upped its holdings in the California electric carmaker by 224 percent in the second quarter of this year, as it nabbed about $49 million worth of shares.

A Treasury spokesman told the The Detroit News that investment decisions are made by a team of portfolio managers who operate independently from state regulatory agencies.

The report also notes that the state owns holdings in hundreds of companies and funds, including that of General Motors, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles and Delphi Automotive, and Tesla's stock represents just 0.12 percent of the state's $60 billion portfolio.  

Tesla and the state of Michigan have had a strained relationship, as the latter is one of just five state's where Tesla's unique, direct-to-consumer retail model is outlawed. 

In fact, Gov. Rick Snyder signed legislation in 2014 that effectively strengthened the ban. 

At the time, Snyder and legislators sponsoring the bill, which had strong support, argued that the new law was aimed at prohibiting car dealerships in the state from dictating fees they charge customers. With the legislation, dealerships can decide whether or not to charge certain transaction fees.

But Tesla has maintained that it's being shut out of the state.

In January, a Tesla executive told MLive it was no longer bringing its wares to the North American International Auto Show in Detroit in light of the ban on direct sales. 

"We want have multiple sales points and multiple service points (in Michigan)," Diarmuid O'Connell, Tesla's vice president of business development, said at the time. "We just bought Riviera Tool and Die, it's now Tesla Tool and Die in Grand Rapids. We have an expanding economic footprint on this state and we want to invest more but we can't even do business here. It's crazy."