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Alameda County Orders Tesla to Cease Vehicle Manufacturing at its California Factory

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【Summary】After a series of angry tweets expressing his frustration with California's shelter-in-place orders that have resulted in the shutdown of Tesla Fremont, California factory since March, Tesla Chief Executive Elon Musk defied a county order and reopened the factory. The move prompted Alameda County, the county where Tesla's factory is located, to order the electric automaker to cease vehicle production at the plant.

FutureCar Staff    May 12, 2020 2:00 PM PT
Alameda County Orders Tesla to Cease Vehicle Manufacturing at its California Factory
Employees cars fill the parking lot at Tesla's California factory on March 18, 2020. (Photo: Noah Berger / Special to The San Francisco Chronicle)


After a series of angry tweets expressing his frustration with California's shelter-in-place orders that have resulted in the shutdown of Tesla Fremont, California factory since March, Tesla Chief Executive Elon Musk defied a county order to keep the plant closed and reopened it on Monday.

Now Alameda County, the county where Tesla's only U.S. factory is located, is ordering the electric automaker to cease vehicle production.

The San Francisco Chronicle reports that  Alameda County officials sent a letter to a top Tesla safety employee on Monday ordering the company to cease manufacturing at its Fremont plant, the strongest step local government has taken to check the electric car maker's defiance of health orders, the San Francisco Chronicle reports.

The plant produced all of Tesla's vehicles since 2012 when the first Model S sedans rolled off the assembly line. The automaker's new Shanghai factory went online late last year and is building the Model 3 sedan for the China market.

Tesla has not been able to produce any vehicles, including the new Model Y crossover, for nearly two months. The first deliveries of the Model Y crossover began in early March, just as the coronavirus pandemic was rapidly growing in the U.S. and Europe.

California Governor Gavin Newsom announced last Thursday that some manufacturing can resume in the state, however his directive does not supersede any stricter county shelter-in-place orders, such as those in place in Alameda County.

After the Governor's announcement, Tesla tried to open the plant as early as the next day, even though the local county-wide shelter-in-place order was still in effect. 

Some of the first documented coronavirus cases in California were in neighboring Santa Clara County, where the county reported 2,339 cases and 129 deaths since March. Alameda County, where the Tesla factory is located, reported 2,064 coronavirus cases and 71 deaths over the same period, so the stricter lockdowns remain in place.

The Chronicle previously reported that some production lines were up and running over the weekend and some employees returned to the plant as early as last week. Alameda County's local shelter-in-place orders do not allow for manufacturing, though Tesla initially defied them, delaying the shutdown of the plant for an additional four days in March.

Tesla tried unsuccessfully in March to keep its factory open, arguing that the company was an "essential business." Tesla with local officials to keep the plant open. Ultimately, Tesla decided to close the factory 4 days later on March 23 citing concerns over the coronavirus pandemic and the safety of its employees and suppliers.

Tesla's Fremont factory employs around 10,000 workers.

The letter from Alameda County Health Care Services Agency Director Colleen Chawla to a top Tesla executive reiterates that the company can only perform "basic functions" at the plant until the county and Tesla agree on a plan to reopen the factory in line with state and local rules.

"Until then, however, you must maintain no more than Minimum Basic Operations," Chawla wrote to Laurie Shelby, vice president of environmental, health, and safety at Tesla.

The mercurial head of Tesla sent a series of angry tweets last weekend expressing his frustration that the factory is being forced to remain closed, but Musk's growing frustrations over the shelter-in-place orders began surfacing two weeks ago. On April 30 during Tesla's Q1 earnings call, Musk called the coronavirus lockdowns in California "fascist."

Musk even threatened to move Tesla's factory out of the state to Texas or Nevada if it wasn't allowed to resume operations, although that's highly unlikely.

Musk also drew public support from the president on Tuesday to reopen the plant. In a tweet, President Trump wrote, "California should let Tesla & @elonmusk open the plant, NOW," "It can be done Fast & Safely!"

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Tesla did not respond to a request for comment.


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