Tesla Motors is using a legal strategy that 1970s film buffs may say is straight out of Harold & Maude. The California-based electric vehicle maker is using a Louisiana legal case involving casket sales to push the federal government to legalize its direct-to-consumer sales model nationwide, The Wall Street Journal says. And although the death-obsessed "Harold" drove a Jaguar hearse in the 1971 classic, we think the comparison works.

What do coffins have to do with electric vehicles?

What do coffins have to do with electric vehicles? Tesla's legal team is taking a close look at a 2013 case in which a Louisiana company offering coffins made by monks was allowed to sell them without possessing a funeral director's license to consumers. The company pursued the case because there was a casket shortage in the state in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.

At stake for Tesla are sales in six US states that account for about 18 percent of new US vehicle purchases. The timing is key because Tesla is about to start taking reservations for its more mass-market-priced Model 3. Arizona, Connecticut, Michigan, Texas, Utah, and West Virginia all prohibit automakers like Tesla from selling vehicles in state without distributing them through a third-party dealership. The Journal quotes Tesla chief counsel Todd Maron as saying such mandates amount to "protectionist motivation" on behalf of the age-old dealership network, and even the Federal Trade Commission has weighed in, saying last year that Tesla should be allowed to sell directly to its customers.

Tesla, in an e-mail sent to Autoblog, didn't address the legal angle the Journal reported, but did call state laws that barred direct-to-consumer sales "bad for consumers, bad for competition, bad for business, and we believe they are unconstitutional."

Michigan enacted its no-direct-sales law in 2014, and Tesla's response, as we reported earlier this year, was to apply for a dealership license last November. Tesla is also fighting in Indiana, where legislators pushed a similar bill to prohibit direct-to-consumer sales earlier this year. General Motors helped to push that effort, saying Tesla shouldn't get "special" rules to distribute its cars.

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