Tesla introduced on March 19th that it would temporarily shut down its electric car factory in California, after back-and-forth with native officers about whether or not the plant was topic to a county-wide coronavirus shelter-in-place order. However the Silicon Valley automaker fought to maintain the manufacturing unit open after that announcement as properly, in line with new emails obtained by Protocol. It additionally got here after the county’s well being officer determined that protecting the plant open was a “public well being threat.”
The emails had been despatched by the native police chief to Tesla’s senior coverage advisor, Dan Chia. Each features a letter memorializing calls and digital conferences between Tesla and native metropolis and county officers. They assist make clear the deliberations between the corporate and the authorities about whether or not the manufacturing unit was an “important enterprise,” which might have allowed it to remain open following the county-wide (and finally state-wide) shelter-in-place orders meant to assist fight the unfold of the novel coronavirus.
Tesla’s argument to these native officers, and to its own workers, has been that the corporate believes it must be thought of “nationwide important infrastructure,” in line with public pointers from the Division of Homeland Safety’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Safety Company, or CISA. CISA issued guidelines outlining what it considered to be critical infrastructure in 2015 that included “automobiles and industrial ships manufacturing.” However in a March 28th memorandum concerning the novel coronavirus pandemic, car manufacturing just isn’t particularly listed within the “important manufacturing” part of CISA’s steering. On the identical time that Tesla was making this argument, each different main automaker ceased manufacturing operations in the US.
Tesla tried to persuade metropolis and county officers of this within the days main as much as the shutdown announcement, and requested to be deemed an “important enterprise” so it might preserve producing the Mannequin 3, Mannequin S, Mannequin X, and the Mannequin Y (which the corporate had simply began delivering) on the California manufacturing unit.
Kimberly Petersen, the chief of police in Fremont, California (the place the manufacturing unit is positioned), advised Chia on March 18th that the county’s interim well being officer had determined Tesla’s manufacturing unit was not important, in line with the emails, that means it must abide by the March 16th shelter-in-place order and stop operations. The county well being officer additionally advised the town that protecting the manufacturing plant open and making the 10,000 or so staff report in could be a “public well being threat,” although it’s unclear within the emails if this was particularly communicated to Tesla. The corporate didn’t instantly reply to a request for remark.
The subsequent day, Chia and quite a lot of different Tesla executives advised the town in a digital assembly that the corporate would adjust to the order. “I wish to reiterate that the Metropolis of Fremont extremely values Tesla as a associate and appreciates what you do for our financial system and our group,” Petersen wrote in her electronic mail memorializing the assembly, which was dated March 21st. “We’re extraordinarily grateful on your willingness to collaborate in our combat in opposition to the unfold of COVID-19 by inserting public well being forward of all different priorities.”
Later that day, although, Chia advised the deputy metropolis supervisor that he felt Petersen’s letter was “not absolutely correct,” and the 2 sides had one other digital assembly on March 22nd. Throughout that assembly, Tesla’s appearing common counsel advised the town that he believed the state-wide shelter-in-place order issued by Gov. Gavin Newsom outdated the county order, and that the language of the state order left room for Tesla to stay open. In one other memo despatched to Tesla on March 22nd, Petersen writes that she nonetheless felt “certain to uphold [the county health officer’s] interpretation” of the county-wide order.
Tesla in the end determined to maintain winding down its operations on the manufacturing unit, save for fundamental operations like payroll. It additionally advised the town that it will preserve bringing in some manufacturing unit staff to carry out so-called “end-of-line” work, and the Fremont police division discovered Tesla to be “in compliance” throughout a post-shutdown inspection, as was first reported by The Verge last week.
The corporate has since gone on to scale back operations at the Gigafactory in Nevada by greater than 75 %, and has additionally shut down its photo voltaic panel manufacturing unit in New York. Curiously, Petersen advised Tesla in one of many emails that if the corporate “transition[ed] to manufacturing ventilators, or different gear meant to assist within the combat in opposition to COVID-19,” it might have saved the manufacturing unit open. Tesla is presently sourcing and delivering desperately needed ventilators in California and New York, together with surgical masks, and CEO Elon Musk has mentioned he desires to fabricate ventilators with assist from Medtronic. However Musk has mentioned he plans to make the ventilators at Tesla’s New York manufacturing unit, not in California.