Tesla Inc Chief Executive Elon Musk on Monday said production was resuming at the automaker’s sole U.S. vehicle factory, in California, defying an order to stay closed and saying if anyone had to be arrested it should be him.
The move comes as states and cities around the United States experiment with ways to safely reopen their economies after the coronavirus outbreak shuttered businesses and forced tens of millions of Americans out of work.
Musk over the weekend threatened to leave California for Texas or Nevada over his factory’s closure. His move has highlighted the competition for jobs and ignited a rush to woo the billionaire executive by states that have reopened their economies more quickly in response to encouragement from U.S. President Donald Trump.
In an email on Monday, Tesla referred to an order on Thursday by California’s governor allowing manufacturers to resume operations and said that as of Sunday, previously furloughed employees were back to their regular employment status.
“We’re happy to get back to work and have implemented very detailed plans to help you keep safe as you return,” according to the email seen by Reuters and titled “Furlough Has Ended And We Are Back To Work in Production!”
Musk in a tweet said production was resuming on Monday, adding that he would join workers on the assembly line. “If anyone is arrested, I ask that it only be me,” he wrote.
Health officials in Alameda County, where the Fremont factory is based, late on Monday said they were aware that Tesla had opened beyond the so-called minimum basic operations allowed during lockdown, and had notified the company it could not operate without a county-approved plan.
In a statement, officials said they expected a proposal from Tesla later on Monday and “hope Tesla will likewise comply without further enforcement measures.” The statement did not specify consequences and said officials would not comment further.
[ Sign up for our Health IQ newsletter for the latest coronavirus updates ]
The county’s lockdown order says violations are punishable by fine, imprisonment or both.
A spokeswoman for the Fremont Police Department on Monday said her office was enforcing the lockdown order at the direction of the health department and had been advised that the county is working with Tesla directly.