Tesla Learns Lesson From Monk-Made Coffins to Sell Directly to Customers

PHOTO: Brother Emmanuel Labrise of St. Josephs Abbey prepares a casket for lining in 2012 in Covington, Louisiana.Sean Gardner for The Washington Post via Getty Images
Brother Emmanuel Labrise of St. Joseph's Abbey prepares a casket for lining in 2012 in Covington, Louisiana.

Tesla's fight to sell its cars directly to customers is taking a cue from an unlikely source -- monks who wanted to sell coffins without a funeral director's license.

Tesla, which sells its cars without dealerships directly in stores and from its website, is fighting car dealers in six states over its business model. The stakes will be higher for the luxury car maker when it will unveil its more affordable, mass-market car this Thursday, the Model 3.

For its defense of its business model, Tesla's legal staff has been studying the case of monks from St. Joseph Abbey outside New Orleans, the Wall Street Journal first reported.

In 2013, a federal appeals court allowed the monks to sell caskets without a funeral director's license. After the Louisiana State Board of Embalmers and Funeral Directors sent the monks a cease and desist letter to sell caskets to the public, the abbey sued the group in 2010. They had said denying their right to sell caskets violated the due process and equal protection clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment of the federal constitution. The case eventually made its way to the Supreme Court, which rejected the board's request to overturn the appeal court's ruling.

PHOTO: A Tesla Model X is displayed during the Geneva Motor Show 2016 in Geneva, Switzerland. Harold Cunningham/Getty Images
A Tesla Model X is displayed during the Geneva Motor Show 2016 in Geneva, Switzerland.

“Tesla is committed to not being foreclosed from operating in the states it desires to operate in, and all options are on the table," Todd Maron, Tesla's chief counsel told the Journal.

Tesla confirmed to ABC News that all options are indeed on the table to sell directly to consumers in states that are resisting, including arguing that prohibition against direct sales is constitutionally prohibited.

Tesla has successfully won the right to sell in states such as New York, Massachusetts and Ohio. The company operates stores in 21 states and Washington, D.C.

The fiercest battleground has been in Michigan, where Gov. Rick Snyder signed legislation two years ago that banned the direct sales that Tesla uses. Last month, Tesla applied for a dealership license in the state, but the state has said it's reviewing the application. Dealers there have argued that their businesses and livelihood would be at risk when competing with a direct sales model.

Last May, the Federal Trade Commission urged Michigan lawmakers to reconsider its ban on Tesla and other car manufacturers from direct sales, writing, "Past studies by both academic researchers and FTC staff have concluded that state-imposed restrictions on automobile manufacturers’ ability to negotiate with their dealers increased the prices paid by consumers without leading to notable improvements in service quality."

Tesla has argued that state laws that ban direct sales create extra hurdles for customers. Customers in states like Michigan can purchase a Tesla car online and technically take delivery in California before having it shipped to Michigan.

The Michigan Automobile Dealers Association, a trade association that has opposed Tesla's business model, did not immediately respond to a request by ABC News for comment.