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- Tesla CEO Elon Musk tweeted on Saturday afternoon that Tesla will be suing Alameda County and moving the Tesla HQ out of California.
- The Fremont, California, facility will not be shuttered for now, but its fate will depend on “how Tesla is treated in the future,” he said. Future Tesla programs and the headquarters will be based in either Texas or Nevada.
- Musk tweeted that Tesla’s experience reopening its Shanghai, China, factory means it knows more about coronavirus safety procedures than the Alameda County health officer does.
Update 5/9/20 11:39PM ET: It seems that Tesla was working with the county to reopen on May 18 when Musk decided to speed up the process and open up on May 8. Alameda County Supervisor Scott Haggerty, told The New York Times, “we were working on a lot of policies and procedures to help operate that plant and quite frankly, I think Tesla did a pretty good job, and that’s why I had it to the point where on May 18, Tesla would have opened.” He continued, “I know Elon knew that. But he wanted it this week.”
Update 5/9/20 10:10PM ET: Palo Alto Mayor Adrian Fine tweeted, “I would be really sad and disappointed if @Tesla left @cityofpaloalto, and stand ready to help.” Tesla’s HQ is based in the city of Palo Alto which is in Santa Clara County. Fine continued, “I truly appreciate having a cutting edge company based here, employing people, paying taxes, and helping to solve the climate crisis. Happy to help @elonmusk.”
Tesla meanwhile has placed a “Getting Back to Work” post in its site. In it the company details what neighboring counties are doing and how those differ from Alameda County and how it intends to spin up the factory.
“Our restart plan is the result of months of careful planning and preparation. It was modeled after the comprehensive return to work plan we established at our Shanghai Gigafactory, which has seen smooth and healthy operations for the last three months.”
It notes that the company has added partitions and barriers to separate work areas and has minimized employee interactions. Also, all employees must wear additional protective gear and will have “rigorous cleaning and disinfecting protocols.”
Well, that escalated quickly. On Saturday, the day after Alameda County health officer Erica Pan said that Tesla’s Fremont facility didn’t have permission to restart operations amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, CEO Elon Musk tweeted that Tesla’s headquarters (which is actually based in Santa Clara County) will be moved to either Nevada or Texas. Musk also tweeted that Tesla would be filing a lawsuit against Alameda County immediately.
That filing can be found here and states “the County is making rules that directly contradict and undermine the policy announced by the Governor in his Orders.”
Musk and Alameda County have had a fraught relationship over the shelter-in-place orders. Tesla was slow to close its Fremont factory back in March when the order was first put into place. Then, this past Thursday, the company sent an email to Fremont factory employees saying that the facility would be opening with a 30 percent head count. The email seemed to be a reaction to the news from California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s Wednesday, May 6, declaration that manufacturing could reopen in the state. But the county’s shelter-in-place orders supersede those of the state, and like the rest of the Bay Area, Alameda County was not allowing manufacturing to start up.
In his tweet, Musk not only attacked the county, but he singled out Pan, calling the County Health Officer “ignorant.”
After Musk’s tweet went live, Fremont Mayor Lily Mei issued a statement noting her concern “about the potential implications for our regional economy’ as it pertains to the manufacturing provisions of the local shelter-in-place mandate.
“As we have done for over a decade, the City is prepared to support Tesla as soon as they are able to resume automobile manufacturing operations and are committed to a thoughtful, balanced approach to this effort that remains safe for our Fremont community,” Mei said in the statement.
Meanwhile, Alameda County issued a statement that it is working closely with Tesla: “This has been a collaborative, good-faith effort to develop and implement a safety plan that allows for reopening while protecting the health and well-being of the thousands of employees who travel to and from work at Tesla’s factory.” The county stated that Tesla has been responsive to the county’s guidance and recommendations and added: “We look forward to coming to an agreement on an appropriate safety plan very soon.”
Tesla has already planned on building a new Gigafactory that’ll most likely be located in Texas. Moving the headquarters to that new location from Santa Clara County would require its HQ staff to relocate to another state. The Fremont factory—where a majority of Tesla’s vehicles are manufactured—and its staff would stay put considering the amount of investment the company has put into the plant. Spinning that down and moving that production to other locations would likely take years. Nevada is the location of the Gigafactory battery production facility, which opened in 2016.
Musk contended via Twitter that Tesla knows how to reopen its Fremont factory in a safe manner based on its experience bringing its Shanghai factory back online after a mandatory shutdown in China.