Elon Musk Risks Arrest As He Reopens Telsa Factory

Elon Musk has defied local county authorities after they had refused to allow production to restart at Tesla’s giant factory in Fremont, California.

Musk has ignored that ban and restarted production at the carmaker’s sole US vehicle factory, and dared authorities to arrest him over the matter.

Tesla’s Fremont factory is located in Alameda County in California, near to San Francisco. On the weekend Telsa had filed a lawsuit against against the county in a San Francisco federal court. He also threatened to move the factory out of California to Texas or Nevada.

Collision course

Prior to that Musk had sent an email to Tesla’s workforce saying that the car maker would restart limited production at its Fremont factory, possibly as soon as last Friday.

Musk has also previously slammed the California lockdown and called it ‘fascist’ and ‘not democratic’, and said that authorities were effectively imprisoning people in their own homes.

But matters looked to coming to a head last week when California Governor Gavin Newsom said he would allow production to resume in factories in some parts of the state that are producing essential goods.

Despite that, late last week Alameda County’s health department warned the carmaker must not reopen because local lockdown measures remain in effect until the end of May, with only essential businesses allowed to reopen.

The county has previously said it does not consider Tesla an essential business.

Tesla said it had contacted health authorities in Alameda County about its restart plans, but alleged the acting official did not return calls or emails.

Tesla then filed its lawsuit at the weekend and also threatened to move out of California altogether.

Arrest Me

In an email on Monday, seen by Reuters, Tesla referred to an order on Thursday by California’s governor allowing manufacturers to resume operations and said that as of Sunday, previously furloughed employees were back to their regular employment status.

“We’re happy to get back to work and have implemented very detailed plans to help you keep safe as you return,” Reuters reported the email, entitled “Furlough Has Ended And We Are Back To Work in Production!” as saying.

Then on Monday Musk then tweeted the following.

“Tesla is restarting production today against Alameda County rules,” he wrote. “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 later tweeted. “Also, all other auto companies in US are approved to resume. Only Tesla has been singled out. This is super messed up!”

What next

According to Reuters, health officials in Alameda County late on Monday said they were aware that Tesla had opened beyond the so-called minimum basic operations allowed during lockdown, and had notified the company it could not operate without a county-approved plan.

In a statement, officials reportedly said they expected a proposal from Tesla later on Monday and “hope Tesla will likewise comply without further enforcement measures.”

However Alameda County officials did not specify consequences and said officials would not comment further.

It is reported that failure to follow Alameda County lockdown rules is punishable by fines, imprisonment or both.

Tesla it should be remembered had resisted shutdown orders in California as long as it could, only shutting down its Fremont factory on 18 March when ordered to do so.

The firm also shut down factories in New York that were making solar roof tiles.

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Tom Jowitt

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelancer and long standing contributor to Silicon UK. He is also a bit of a Lord of the Rings nut...

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