Tesla Model 3 driving on a wet road.  We see the car from a rear quarter angle, it's facing to our left and driving away from us.  They are medium blue and water drips from their tires.General Motors dealers repaired more than 11,000 Telsas vehicles last year.

GM Chairman Mark Reuss dropped that surprising news in a presentation to investors late last week. Royce revealed that the service is “a growing business for us.” He did not provide any details of the services provided by the agents.

The idea points to a fundamental difference between Tesla and the older automakers.

GM access everywhere. Tesla Limited.

Tesla does not operate stores or service centers in every state.

The company has a fleet of mobile repair units that can perform a multitude of services in owners’ driveways. But for more complex repairs, owners must bring their vehicles (or have them towed) to service centers that can be hundreds of miles away.

Owners have complained that getting an appointment is difficult for many, and repair prices can be high.

Tesla can’t solve this problem quickly. The company directly owns its own sales centers, which is prohibited by law in some states.

Related: Tesla Finds Workaround to State Laws: Agents on Tribal Lands

Traditional automakers operate through dealer networks, which are business partners they don’t own. This leaves them splitting the profit from each sale with the brokers. But this means that they can work everywhere.

General Motors has a network of thousands of dealerships—many of which, the company estimates, 90% of Americans live within a 10-mile drive of one.

For some Tesla owners, getting to a nearby Buick, Cadillac, Chevrolet, or GMC dealership will be much simpler than working through Tesla’s complex repair network.

Automakers know their competitors’ products

Most General Motors dealerships now have service technicians certified to work on electric vehicles, with its growing electric lineup for service.

Related: Maintaining Your Tesla: Everything You Need to Know

Most automakers know their competitors’ products intimately. They buy competitors’ vehicles for standard testing and study.

There is even an engineering company that buys most cars, disassembles them into individual fasteners, and sells this information to the competition. Tesla knows exactly how to install Subaru carpeting in the trunk. Subaru knows how to indicate rev-matching Honda transmissions when shifting.

Presumably, GM knows how Tesla arranges its battery cells for cooling and can reassemble them.

Moving puts Tesla in a difficult spot

It’s not clear how GM’s dealer network gets access to Tesla parts. This could be a valve that Tesla can close.

But Royce’s impromptu ad puts Tesla in a public relations bind. The company could tighten parts distribution in an effort to make it more difficult for General Motors, and other repair shops other than Tesla, to work on their cars.

But that risks angering owners who have just discovered they have closer service options than they knew.

So Tesla has a choice: let owners roam GM showrooms looking for new GM electric cars while GM fixes the broken Tesla, or choke off the supply of parts and leave some owners so upset that they let their car tow to another state for repair. .

“This is why Tesla is now investing millions to replicate the brick-and-mortar service centers we already have,” Royce said.

Reporters at the investor event say Royce laughed softly as he made a surprising nod.

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