Musk wins battle over Tesla factory reopening


Tesla has been given a tentative green light to restart production at its plant in Fremont, California, just days after the electric carmaker sued its local county and then restarted production in defiance of the authorities.

Alameda County, home to the plant employing more than 10,000 people, said it had reviewed Tesla’s Covid-19 prevention plan and was prepared to let the carmaker build up operations “this week in preparation for possible reopening as soon as next week”.

“We will be working with the Fremont Police Department to verify Tesla is adhering to physical distancing and that agreed upon health and safety measures are in place for the safety of their workers as they prepare for full production,” the county said, after making its decision late on Tuesday.

Tesla made public a 38-page “return to work” playbook at the weekend outlining the measures it would take to prevent the spread of Covid-19 in its factories, and Mr Musk was on Twitter on Wednesday emphasising the effort.

“The custom styling some of the team is doing over their masks is really cool!” he wrote.

Gavin Newsom, California governor, on Wednesday applauded both parties for resolving the issue “in fairly short order”, though he slightly chided the county and implied it had been sloppy. “We try to work with people,” Mr Newsom said. “It’s not ready, fire, aim; it’s ready, aim, fire.”

The dispute came to a head last Friday after Alameda officials declined Tesla’s request to reopen.

While California has already allowed for manufacturing, logistics and warehouses to resume operations, state orders are superseded by county level rules determining whether practices are in place to prevent the spread of the virus. “Tesla has been informed that they do not meet those criteria and must not reopen,” the county said last Friday.

Mr Musk called this rejection “the final straw” on Saturday. Within hours, Tesla sued the county and threatened to relocate its headquarters to Nevada or Texas, which garnered considerable support among politicians outside of California.

On Monday, the Fremont plant began to resume operations in open defiance of the country, with Mr Musk tweeting to his 34m followers: “If anyone is arrested, I ask that it only be me.”

Mr Musk’s grandstanding has thrown him into the political spotlight at a time when many Americans have grown tired of “shelter at home” policies, leading to multiple protests around the country.

On Tuesday even President Donald Trump tweeted his support of Mr Musk, saying: “California should let Tesla & @elonmusk open the plant, NOW. It can be done Fast & Safely!”

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