Earlier this year, Tesla Motors bought Riviera Tool, a company in western Michigan that produced tooling and dies used to make parts for Tesla automobiles. Michigan is overflowing with companies like Riviera Tool that support the auto manufacturing industry. “The former Rivera Tool and Die, now Tesla Michigan, was already making integral manufacturing parts for us. It made sense for us to adopt a supplier, now as one of our own,” Will Nicholas, a Tesla representative told Grand Rapids’ TV 8 News.
Maybe, but is there more going on here? Yes, by buying Riviera Tool, Tesla got access to a modern tool and die facility and an experienced workforce, but it might have gotten something else. Michigan is home to the corporate headquarters of General Motors, Ford and Chrysler. The Big Three have lobbied the Michigan legislature hard to prevent Tesla from getting the amendment to the state’s franchise dealer law is so badly wants. Right now, any prospective Tesla owner has to travel out of state to purchase a Tesla automobile.
It is no coincidence that two influential members of the Michigan legislature were on hand for the official opening ceremonies of the new Tesla Michigan manufacturing facility. Among other things, Tesla could have purchased the assets of Riviera Tool and simply moved production out of state, perhaps next door to the company’s factory in Fremont, California. The fact that it elected to keep the skilled workers at Riviera Tool employed right at home in Michigan might have won Tesla a somewhat more sympathetic hearing from lawmakers when the state legislature reconvenes and takes up a bill to relax the franchise dealer law once again.
Nicholas told TV 8, Tesla would like to build brick and mortar facilities within Michigan to sell and service its vehicles. Such operations would help Michigan’s struggling economy. Will that be enough to cause state legislators to change their minds?