Tesla boss Elon Musk is making a bold stand against local California laws, but the move could very well backfire.
The billionaire entrepreneur has challenged local authorities to arrest him after reopening his California factory in violation of local coronavirus restrictions, The New Daily reported.
“Tesla is restarting production today against Alameda County rules. I will be on the line with everyone else. If anyone is arrested, I ask that it only be me,” Musk said on Twitter.
The company, which had been closed since March 23 to help slow the spread of Covid-19, has summoned employees back to work at its Freemont plant — in defiance of local laws requiring it to stay shut, the report said.
The massive Tesla plant employs 10,000 people, and its car park was nearly full at the start of the working week.
Tesla said it had implemented safety procedures to protect workers, including increased cleaning, enforcement of social distancing, providing face coverings and gloves where needed.
It has also installed barriers between workers and introduced employee temperature checks at “some locations,” the report said.
In another tweet, Musk said car companies elsewhere in the US had been allowed to resume operations, but Alameda County regulations were holding back Tesla.
Alameda County Sheriff Ray Kelly said any enforcement of the law would come from local police, who would be directed by the county’s health officer, the report said.
California Governor Gavin Newsom said on Monday that Tesla and other manufacturers might be able to reopen their plants in the state as early as next week.
Over the weekend, Musk threatened to move the company to Texas or Nevada.
“Frankly, this is the final straw,” he wrote in a since-deleted tweet.
“Tesla will now move its HQ and future programs to Texas/Nevada immediately.”
The Fremont factory is Tesla’s only US vehicle-assembly plant, and the company would lose critical production if it shut it down to move equipment.
Governor Newsom indicated the issue in Freemont was a local dispute between different authorities, which would be resolved, the report said.
Tesla, which also has a vehicle plant in Shanghai and is building another in Berlin, on Saturday sued the county, alleging it had violated California’s constitution by defying Newsom’s orders allowing manufacturers to reopen, CGTN.com reported.
Since his threat to leave California on Saturday, officials from Texas, Georgia, Utah, Oklahoma and Nevada have reached out to Musk on Twitter, encouraging him to relocate to their state.
A Texas official said his county was available immediately to accommodate Tesla and invited the billionaire CEO for a visit, CGTN.com reported.
“We have a motivated, pro-business governor,” Richard Cortez, county judge of Texas’ Hidalgo County, said on Monday. “What we no longer have is a shelter at home mandate.”
Californian law allows a fine of US$1,000 a day or up to 90 days in jail for violating health orders.