Tesla eyes Fremont factory restart despite stay-at-home order

Tesla has asked some of its workers to return to its production facility in Fremont, California, despite a stay-at-home order remaining in place.

Last month, after a brief tussle with local officials, Tesla agreed to close the site in response to a stay-at-home order issued due to the coronavirus outbreak.

But internal messages seen by Bloomberg show that despite the order running until Sunday, May 3, the electric-car company is asking some of its workers — responsible for paint and stamping operations — to return to the plant on Wednesday, April 29.

Responsible for the production of Tesla’s current range of vehicles and employing some 10,000 people, the Fremont facility hit the headlines in mid-March after the company apparently defied a stay-at-home instruction that ordered nonessential businesses to close, and residents to stay indoors, until early May, as part of measures to slow the spread of the virus.

A spokesperson for the sheriff’s office said at the time that Tesla would violate the California health and safety code if it continued to operate as usual. Following discussions with local, state, and federal officials, Tesla relented and agreed to temporarily shutter the facility on March 24.

With Credit Suisse analysts estimating the factory’s closure is causing the company around $300 million of cash burn per week, it’s little wonder Tesla wants to put the facility back into action. Whether its planned early opening causes another run-in with the authorities remains to be seen. But an even bigger headache could be coming Tesla’s way if the stay-at-home order is extended beyond May 3.

The temporary closure of California businesses came as a big disappointment for Tesla as it happened just days after it began the very first deliveries of its brand new Model Y electric crossover that it produces at its Fremont facility.

Many major automakers have suspended operations at numerous car factories as part of measures to protect workers from the virus and to reduce the number of infections in the wider population. Bloomberg notes in its report that while many car manufacturers have outlined plans to restart facilities in early May, the United Auto Workers union of North America has warned that it may be too early.

“We want to make sure the scientific data is supportive and every possible health protocols and enhanced protections are in place before UAW members walk into the workplace,” the union said.

As the virus took hold in China earlier in the year, Tesla was also forced to suspend operations at its recently opened production plant in Shanghai, its only such facility in the country. It has since reopened.

We’ve reached out to Tesla for comment on its apparent plan to reopen part of its California factory, and we will update this piece when we hear back.

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