Elon Musk threatens to move Tesla out of California, sues county over lockdown dispute: 'I'm not messing around'

Tesla's Fremont facility is its only US vehicle assembly plant and the company would lose critical production if it shut down the plant to move equipment


                            Elon Musk threatens to move Tesla out of California, sues county over lockdown dispute: 'I'm not messing around'
Elon Musk (Getty Images)

Tesla CEO Elon Musk threatened to pull the company's factory and headquarters out of California and sued local officials on May 9 after Alameda County advised Tesla to remain closed until June 1 as the country battles the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

Earlier this week, California Governor Gavin Newsom announced that the state would allow manufacturers to begin reopening from May 8. Musk had enthusiastically tweeted, "Yeah!!"

However, Alameda County — where Tesla's Fremont factory is located — along with several other Bay Area counties and cities, extended the stay-at-home orders last week through the end of May. On May 8, Alameda County health officer Dr Erica Pan said in a video streamed town hall meeting that Tesla had not been given the "green light" to open the Fremont factory.

Musk then responded on Twitter, threatening to sue Alameda County — which Tesla has since done — and to move Tesla's factory and headquarters out of California. Musk tweeted, "Tesla is filing a lawsuit against Alameda County immediately. The unelected & ignorant 'Interim Health Officer' of Alameda is acting contrary to the Governor, the President, our Constitutional freedoms & just plain common sense!"

He then wrote, "Frankly, this is the final straw. Tesla will now move its HQ and future programs to Texas/Nevada immediately. If we even retain Fremont manufacturing activity at all, it will be dependent on how Tesla is treated in the future. Tesla is the last carmaker left in CA."

Alameda County officials responded later in a press release that they "have been communicating directly and working closely with the Tesla team on the ground in Fremont", and that they "look forward to coming to an agreement on an appropriate safety plan very soon".

The statement also said residents and businesses have made sacrifices to protect the health of people in the region. “It is our collective responsibility to move through the phases of reopening and loosening the restrictions of the shelter-in-place order in the safest way possible, guided by data and science,” the department said.

Tesla has since filed a lawsuit against Alameda County seeking to nullify the county’s orders and allow the automaker to resume operations. The lawsuit states, "Alameda County decided that — notwithstanding the clear language and statewide logic of the Governor's order on this point — it would insist that its prior (and subsequent) conflicting pronouncements controlled the state-wide order."

California’s order does not override county-level health orders. Alameda County, where the plant is located, has a shelter-in-place order effective through May 31, according to the county Public Health Department website.

After the lawsuit was filed, Musk tweeted, "I’m not messing around. Absurd & medically irrational behavior in violation of constitutional civil liberties, moreover by *unelected* county officials with no accountability, needs to stop."

This is not the first time Musk has threatened to move Tesla's offices. In February, he changed his Twitter bio location to Austin temporarily, leading some to believe he was hinting that Tesla would be joining the bustling tech scene in the capital city.

It would be costly and difficult for Tesla to move its operations from California to either Texas or Nevada. The Fremont facility, which was formerly run jointly by General Motors and Toyota, currently is Tesla’s only US vehicle assembly plant, and the company would lose critical production if it shut down the plant to move equipment.

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