Musk defies county orders, reopens Tesla plant, dares authorities to arrest him

I will be on the line with everyone else.

Elon Musk tweeted to confirm he reopened his Tesla facility in Fremont, California over the weekend despite a continuing legal battle with local officials regarding whether the plant should stay closed amid the COVID-19 outbreak, and asked to take personal responsibility for legal gray areas.

On Saturday, Tesla filed a lawsuit against Alameda County, arguing in court documents obtained by ABC News that the plant is part of California's governor-outlined "critical infrastructure" and has the right to reopen despite local officials ordering the opposite.

US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said California "should do whatever is necessary to help the electric carmaker reopen its only US vehicle factory if it wants to keep the company in its state", the Reuters news agency reported.

In a statement, Alamada County said: "The team at Tesla has been responsive to our guidance and recommendations, and we look forward to coming to an agreement on an appropriate safety plan very soon".

Alameda County, where the Fremont factory is located, shut down Tesla's attempt to restart production. Tesla has attempted to restart its operations several times recently despite public health orders prohibiting it from doing so.

Health officers for Alameda County and six other San Francisco Bay area municipalities decided in late April to extend their restrictions on businesses through the end of May. According to one report, Tesla made around 200 Model Ys in recent days.

Despite Musk's threat, it would be costly and hard to quickly shift production from Fremont to Texas or Nevada.

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The restart defied orders from the Alameda County Public Health Department, which has deemed the factory a nonessential business that can't open under virus restrictions. On Twitter, Musk again said that Tesla's reopening had been "approved" by the state.

Governor Newsom said he was not aware of the California plant reopening in defiance of local guidelines, but was hopeful the state could make peace with Tesla.

"Frankly, this is the final straw", Musk tweeted.

"If Tesla is open, we should be open, too", he said. Tesla will now move its headquarters and future programs to Texas/Nevada immediately. He said the dispute over the reopening would be resolved "at the county level".

Tesla opened a plant in Shanghai a year ago and it is building another outside of Berlin, but Fremont is home to Tesla's headquarters and its primary manufacturing facility.

The county said it has worked "in good faith" with the electric auto manufacturer on a plan that "ensures the safety of their thousands of employees and the communities in which they live and work".

Musk has been a big proponent of resuming normal business operations, writing that the "coronavirus panic is dumb" in March and demanding in a tweet last month, "FREE AMERICA NOW". Today, the Fremont, California, factory can produce as many as 400,000 vehicles annually. Tesla is the only major automaker with a factory in California.

  • Sonia Alvarado