Tesla chief Elon Musk says he is suing Alameda County, home to the electric carmaker’s Fremont manufacturing plant, and could leave California altogether after being denied a request to restart production due to coronavirus.
Mr Musk said he would also move Tesla’s Palo Alto headquarters, and hinted that all manufacturing in Fremont could be shut for good.
“Frankly, this is the final straw,” the billionaire said on Twitter on Saturday morning.
“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 dependen [sic] on how Tesla is treated in the future. Tesla is the last carmaker left in CA.”
The message came in response to a fan-podcast tweeting that Alameda “doesn’t think Tesla should reopen until June 1”. Ross Gerber, an investor and longtime Tesla bull, then said it was “time for a lawsuit”.
Mr Musk agreed and said: “The unelected & ignorant ‘Interim Health Office’ of Alameda is acting contrary to the Governor, the President, our Constitutional freedoms & just plain common sense.”
How seriously one should take the threat to shift production is unclear, as moving locations would incur major costs. Following an expansion in 2016, Tesla’s site in Fremont is nearly 10m square feet on 370 acres of land. Tesla started operations there in 2009 after acquiring it from NUMMI, a GM-Toyota joint venture. It is home to more than 10,000 employees and is Tesla’s main US site for building the Y, S and 3 models.
A spokesperson for Tesla did not respond immediately to a request for clarification.
In a follow-up message on Twitter, Mr Musk told his 33.9m followers: “Please voice your disagreement as strongly as possible with @AlamedaCounty.” He also encouraged Tesla shareholders to file a class-action lawsuit against the county.
Earlier in the week Tesla had asked employees to return to the Fremont plant on Friday but Alameda issued a statement that Tesla did not meet its requirements for reopening and “must not reopen”.
Mr Musk said Tesla’s Shanghai plant had already proven it could reopen with policies in place to protect employees.
“Tesla knows far more about what needs to be done to be safe through our Tesla China factory experience than an (unelected) interim junior official in Alameda County,” he added.