Tesla aims to restart US plant after green light from California Governor

The vehicle-assembly plant in Fremont has been idled since March 23 due to shutdowns

A view of Tesla's factory in Fremont, California. Reuters
A view of Tesla's factory in Fremont, California. Reuters

Electric vehicle manufacturer Tesla plans to reopen its sole US car plant as soon as Friday after California’s Governor allowed manufacturers to resume operations.

The company aims to restart the factory, chief executive Elon Musk told staff on Thursday in an email.

The vehicle-assembly plant in Fremont, California, has been closed since March 23 due to shutdowns aimed at limiting the spread of the coronavirus.

California Governor Gavin Newsom said on Thursday he will let manufacturers in some parts of the state resume operations starting Friday, while Michigan’s Gretchen Whitmer cleared the way for them to reopen beginning May 11.

The implications of the announcements are clear for Detroit, with General Motors, Ford Motor and Fiat Chrysler now having a green light to restart North American plants starting May 18.

Mr Newsom’s announcement elicited a cheer from Mr Musk, who has sharply criticised shutdown orders.

However, Tesla’s position is murkier, with California still allowing counties to remain more restrictive and potentially block Mr Musk from reopening his assembly plant in the state.

Alameda County, which is home to Tesla’s plant in Fremont, said in a statement on Thursday that the region’s current health orders remain in place and takes precedence.

“We will continue to work with our community and business leaders to accomplish careful, measured progress that allows us to maintain our gains as we move forward to further reopening and better times ahead,” Alameda said in a joint statement issued by San Francisco Bay area counties and cities.

Mr Newsom said the state isn’t telling local governments that feel it’s too soon to reopen to modify their orders.

“For example, the Bay Area, Northern California, they have guidelines where they are a little more strict than these guidelines,” he said. “If they choose not to come into compliance with the state guidelines, they have that right.”

Separately, Tesla suspended production at its only other car factory — located on the outskirts of Shanghai — this week.

Many workers who were supposed to return to work on Wednesday, after China’s five-day Labour Day break, were told that their holiday would be extended and they will return as soon as on May 9, people familiar with the matter have said.

A Tesla representative in China declined to comment.

Published: May 8, 2020 03:30 PM

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