On Monday, Tesla CEO Elon Musk reopened his Fremont car factory, going against Alameda County orders, not to do so because of coronavirus-related health restrictions.
Reopening of the Fremont Plant
The decision came only days after Musk threatened to move both the plant and Tesla’s HQ out of state to Nevada or Texas.
“Tesla is restarting production today against Alameda County rules,” tweeted Musk on Monday. “I will be on the line with everyone else. If anyone is arrested, I ask that it only be me.”
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.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) May 11, 2020
Through his lawsuit with the state, Musk has argued that the state has allowed transportation businesses to continue as essential services and that there is no ‘rational’ reason behind the closure.
Alameda County, currently under a lockdown until May 31st, has backed off slightly from their original stance.
Last week, Interim Alameda County Health Officer Erica Pan said that “We have not given the green light. We have been working with them looking at some of their safety plans. But no, we have not said that it is appropriate to move forward.”
However, by Monday, the County changed their tune, saying Tesla could only do ‘minimal operations’ but that they would need a plan to fully reopen. They also threatened the plant to ‘cease all production’, changing the terms of being allowed to stay open yet again.
On Monday, the Alameda Count Sheriff’s Office confirmed that there was no plan yet in place with Musk or Tesla.
— Alameda County Sheriff (@ACSOSheriffs) May 11, 2020
However, as of Tuesday, the County has yet to take any action against the plant. Local and county law enforcement have only watched factory workers and executives return to the plant and resume operations.
Presidential support and backing off by the Governor
However, since Monday, Musk has received nothing but good news from other officials following Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez (D-San Diego) verbally blasting him on Twitter and Alameda County officials sending threats.
On Monday, Governor Gavin Newsom washed his hands of the incident and confirmed that California would not be pursuing him, saying that his fight was with Alameda County and not the state.
President Donald Trump also threw his support to Musk on reopening his plant.
“California should let Tesla & Elon Musk open the plant, NOW,” tweeted the President on Tuesday. “It can be done Fast & Safely!”
California should let Tesla & @elonmusk open the plant, NOW. It can be done Fast & Safely!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 12, 2020
The ambiguity of the situation and the reluctance of the County to immediately use any action could have consequences.
“Think of the message this sends to other companies,” said Automotive Industry consultant Phillip Logan. “If Musk is allowed to get away scot-free, why not other businesses currently shut out in the county? Ford and GM are opening factories soon – why not the only American car company that makes the majority of it’s cars in America?”
“If other industries still currently out in California see other states opening them, they might open too also expecting no consequences for going against a county order.”
“Alameda County will need to act within days to give some sort of punishment against them. And public health is really the only card they can play against an argument of jobs, keeping the company there, and the economy.”
“And Trump is in his corner now. Regardless of your feelings towards him, that’s one heck of an ally to have in a growing quarrel like this.”
“And it’s probably also a reason why Alameda County hasn’t taken any immediate action.”