Tesla reportedly planning to restart U.S. car plant amid lockdown

Tesla is reportedly planning to restart production at its only U.S. auto plant despite an ongoing shelter-in-place order that means it should stay closed.

The news comes via the SF Chronicle, which cited a person familiar with Tesla’s factory operations as its source.

A “handful” of the factory’s 10,00-strong workforce apparently showed up at Tesla’s facility in Fremont, California, on Wednesday to put safety measures in place ahead of the restart of several production lines, possibly in the coming days.

The factory first courted controversy in mid-March when it stayed open for several days after the original shelter-in-place order was implemented in response to the coronavirus pandemic. Once the local authorities made clear that only essential businesses could stay open during the lockdown notice, Tesla agreed to lay down tools. But with six Bay Area counties recently extending their shelter-in-place orders until the end of May, it could be that Tesla is heading for another clash with the authorities.

Lockdown loosening?

The Chronicle points out how California governor Gavin Newsom said this week that some businesses will soon be allowed to open so long as they put in place strict safety measures that are acceptable to local authorities. However, the health order for Alameda County — home to Tesla’s Fremont factory — prohibits “manufacturing or assembly of non-essential products” during the lockdown, suggesting the company may have to carefully negotiate its way back to production if it wants to reopen anytime soon.

We already know how Tesla CEO Elon Musk feels about the lockdown orders after his outburst during an earnings call with investors last week.

“To say that they cannot leave their house and they’ll be arrested if they do? This is fascist,” the billionaire entrepreneur said during the call, adding, “This is not democratic, this is not freedom. Give people back their goddamn freedom.”

It should be noted that neither the California or federal shelter-in-place guidelines pave the way for the arrest of people who violate lockdown rules.

Credit Suisse analysts recently estimated that the closure of Tesla’s factory is costing the company around $300 million per week.

We’ve reached out to Tesla to ask about its reported plan to reopen its Fremont factory and will update this piece when we hear back.

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