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Tesla gallery in Somerset Collection

Without fanfare or much coverage in the local media, Tesla has opened a new “gallery” to showcase their cars just a mile down Big Beaver from the headquarters of the Detroit Auto Dealers Association (DADA) in the Detroit suburb of Troy.

We decided to head up to Somerset Collection (“collection” is the buzzword for a high-end mall) and take a look at the 700 square foot space nestled inside the first level of the Nordstrom store.

And the word “nestled” is appropriate. At first glance, if you’re not looking for it, you might miss it. You’re going to need to go past the Shinola Bixby bicycle and through the purses to get to a space that looks like it should be facing the main entrance floor of the mall.

Tesla gallery Michigan Detroit

However, doing it this way meant a lot less fuss (you work through Nordstrom and can pull this off as quietly as they did) and it’s clear considering the attention to detail that this is an experiment that could expand.

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You can’t buy a Tesla in Michigan. This state, and many others, have dealer protection laws that basically mean you have to buy a car from a car dealer. Tesla recently applied for a license to sell cars in Michigan, was denied, and is now suing over the result.

Beyond Tesla’s situation, here’s an entertaining breakdown of car dealerships and the protections they have in many states.

Service is also a question, as Tesla current needs to send “rangers” up from Ohio to take care of you.

There was only one car in the gallery, but there was a steady stream of people giving information and getting in the gull-winged Model X they had on display.

Tesla gallery in Somerset Mall Nordstrom Michigan

The Model X ranges in prices online from $75,000-$135,000 (we had to look it up as the guides don’t talk about pricing). Swinging back around a couple more times, it was clear there was a lot of passing interest. The closest dealer is in Cleveland, Ohio.

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In the back of the space was a design center and the attendant knowledgeably shared information about charging stations, range, and more. They’re now saying their superchargers can recharge the car in about 20 minutes or so. That seems faster than when they last appeared at the North American International Auto Show a few years ago.

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Studies show that people hate the current car buying experience, and based on that consumer angst, if car dealerships lose their legal protections they could face the same kind of digital revolution that has decimated the travel industry and newspapers.

It’s going to be interesting to see if this gallery, a “toe in the water” if you will, turns into wading into the pool, diving right in, or finding Michigan just isn’t a place Tesla wants to swim.

The Tesla Gallery is in the Nordstrom at the Somerset Collection. 2850 Big Beaver in Troy.