Tesla boss Elon Musk has threatened to pull the firm’s headquarters and only US car factory out of California after local officials stopped the company from reopening the electric vehicle plant.
“Frankly, this is the final straw,” Musk tweeted. “Tesla will now move its HQ and future programs to Texas/Nevada immediately.”
Tesla also filed a lawsuit against Alameda County, accusing the county health department of overstepping federal and state coronavirus restrictions when it blocked the carmaker from restarting production at its factory in Fremont.
Frankly, this is the final straw. 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 on how Tesla is treated in the future. Tesla is the last carmaker left in CA.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) May 9, 2020
A spokeswoman for the county’s public health department said the local coronavirus lockdown order – which came into force on 23 March and has been extended until the end of May – only permits essential businesses to reopen.
California Governor Gavin Newsom allowed the Bay Area counties to continue restrictions while easing them in other parts of the state.
The court action comes after Alameda County Public Health Department said on Friday that it had told Tesla that it did not meet conditions required for a business to reopen.
“The Bay Area started with a higher disease burden than the rest of the state, which may mean tighter restrictions than the rest of the state for some time,” it said.
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“Restoring all daily activities too soon risks a rapid spike in cases and would jeopardise the relative stability we’ve seen in our health and hospital systems.”
It was a blow to its billionaire boss, who had told employees limited production would restart at the plant, and comes as competing carmakers start to reopen factories in the US.
Toyota will restart production on Monday with General Motors, Ford and Fiat Chrysler all planning to follow suit gradually from 18 May. Tesla is the only carmaker with a factory in California.
Mr Musk has been complaining about coronavirus lockdown measures for weeks on social media.
Earlier this month, he described the COVID-19 restrictions as “forcibly imprisoning people in their homes” and “fascist”.
He said he did not know when Tesla could resume production in California and called the state’s stay-at-home order a “serious risk” to the business.
Public health experts say the orders have reduced the number of coronavirus cases nationwide.
More than 1.3 million confirmed cases and more than 78,000 deaths have been recorded in the US since the start of the outbreak.