Telsa CEO Elon Musk continued to defy California and Alameda County authorities by restarting production at the company’s Fremont assembly plant Monday, saying he was ready to be arrested himself if necessary, CBS San Francisco reported. The announcement came days after Musk filed a lawsuit against the county to reopen the factory, which is Tesla’s only vehicle assembly plant in the U.S.
Shift workers were seen streaming in and out of the sprawling plant in the pre-dawn hours, filling up the employee parking lot. The company reportedly has deployed additional PPE masks and taken other measures similar to those used to reopen the automaker’s plant in Shanghai, China.
Verve, quoting two unnamed workers, said production had actually restarted on a limited basis over the weekend and around 200 Model Y and Model 3 vehicles had rolled off the assembly line.
Monday afternoon, Musk said production was indeed restarting at the Fremont facility. “Tesla is restarting production today against Alameda County rules,” he tweeted. “I will be on the line with everyone else. If anyone is arrested, I ask that it only be me.”
“Yes, California approved, but an unelected county official illegally overrode,” he added. “Also, all other auto companies in US are approved to resume. Only Tesla has been singled out. This is super messed up!”
Earlier Monday, Governor Gavin Newsom said he was unaware that the Telsa plant had restarted operations. When asked at his daily coronavirus news briefing to comment on Musk’s previous demands that Tesla be allowed to resume production at the plant, Newsom said he hoped the company would be given a green light to start up next week.
In an email last Thursday night, Musk called 30% of the factory’s workforce back to the plant, arguing that it was permitted under Governor Gavin Newsom’s order, CBS San Francisco reported.
But the plant was closed March 23 under a six-county order in the San Francisco area, which has been extended through May 31. Newsom has said local orders take precedence over state orders.
Musk on Saturday filed a lawsuit against Alameda County to reopen the plant, and threatened to move the factory to Nevada or Texas “immediately.”
“If we even retain Fremont manufacturing activity at all, it will be dependen [sic] on how Tesla is treated in the future,” he tweeted.
Alameda County responded to Musk’s decision, writing, “Today, May 11, we learned that the Tesla factory in Fremont had opened beyond Minimum Basic Operations. We have notified Tesla that they can only maintain Minimum Basic Operations until we have an approved plan that can be implemented in accordance with the local public health Order.”
“We are addressing this matter using the same phased approach we use for other businesses which have violated the Order in the past, and we hope that Tesla will likewise comply without further enforcement measures,” the county added, noting that it has worked “in good faith” with the company on reopening the plant.
Musk has been a frequent critic of social distancing and stay-at-home regulations. During an April 29 call, Musk called these measures “fascist” and said they posed a “serious risk” to Tesla.
“If somebody wants to stay in their house, that’s great,” Musk said, according to a recording of the call reviewed by CBS News. “They can stay in their house and they should not be compelled to leave. But to say that they cannot leave their house and they will be arrested if they do, this is fascist. This is not democratic, this is not freedom. Give people back their g**d*** freedom.”
At his briefing, Newsom said his “understanding is they have had some very constructive conversations with the folks at that facility,” Newsom said of talks between the county and the company. “The county health director and they are working to focus on the health and safety of the employees at that facility and my belief and hope and expectation is as early as next week, they will be able to resume.”
When asked about rumors that the plant had reopened, Newsom said, “My understanding when I walked up to the podium today, that was not the case. I’m trying to monitor hundreds of thousands of businesses all throughout the state. I’m trying to work with business large and small.”