US President Donald Trump has entered the toxic battle between Tesla’s CEO Elon Musk and local officials in a county in California.
Tesla’s Fremont factory is located in Alameda County in California, near to San Francisco. Earlier this week Musk restarted production at the factory, and dared authorities to arrest him over the matter.
Musk is at risk of arrest as Alameda County’s health department had warned Tesla not to 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.
But Elon Musk was furious, and last week sent an email to Tesla’s workforce saying that the car maker would restart limited production at its Fremont factory.
Musk 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.
Telsa filed a lawsuit against the county in a San Francisco federal court at the weekend.
And Musk was not finished there, as he also threatened to move the Tesla factory out of California altogether, to Texas or Nevada.
That action drew a sharp rebuke from one Democratic state politician, Lorena S Gonzalez from San Diego, who tweeted “F*ck Elon Musk.”
Into this has stepped the US President, who on Tuesday urged that Tesla be allowed to reopen its electric vehicle assembly plant in California.
“California should let Tesla & @elonmusk open the plant, NOW. It can be done Fast & Safely!” Trump wrote on Twitter.
Musk tweeted “Thank you!” in response to Trump on Tuesday.
Last week California Governor Gavin Newsom announced he would allow production to resume in factories in some parts of the state that are producing essential goods.
However local municipalities in California have the discretion to have more restrictive rules, which Alameda County chose to do in Fremont, where only essential businesses are allowed to operate.
Failure to follow Alameda County lockdown rules is punishable by fines, imprisonment or both.
This triggered Musk to threaten to leave California altogether and relocate the Fremont factory to either Nevada (where it already has a battery factory) or Texas.
And it seems that despite a factory move being a huge undertaking, Musk could be serious, after Reuters reported that he held talks with Texas Governor Greg Abbott about a potential move to the Lone Star state.
Abbott said during an interview with the Wichita Falls CBS affiliate that he thinks Texas is a perfect fit for Tesla.
A spokesman for Abbott confirmed to Reuters the governor spoke with Musk over the weekend.
“I’ve had the opportunity to talk to Elon Musk and he’s genuinely interested in Texas and genuinely frustrated with California,” Abbott said. “We’ve just got to wait and see how things play out.”
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.
It had also furloughed employees in early April.