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article imageTesla finally agrees to temporarily close its California factory

By Ken Hanly     Mar 31, 2020 in Business
On March 19th Tesla,Elon Musk's EV company, announced finally that it would temporarily shut down its electric car factory in California.
Local officials claim keeping Tesla factory open was a public health risk
Tesla had argued
with local officials as to whether the factory was subject to a country wide set of regulations that would close non-essential businesses that could be a health hazard. The company exchanged emails with local officials in which it argued that Tesla was an essential business and thus need not close. Local officials on the other hand argued that the factory should be closed as keeping it open was a public health risk.
Emails were sent by the local police chief to Dan Chia, Tesla's chief policy advisor. The emails reveal the substance of the calls and virtual meetings between Tesla and county officials. The discussions revolved around the question where Testa should be closed as a public health risk as local officials claimed or whether it was an essential business that should remain open.
Tesla's position
Tesla has maintained that vehicles and commercial ships manufacturing are listed as critical infrastructure by the Department of Homeland Security's Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) in 2015 guidelines. However in the March 28 memorandum about the coronavirus epidemic motor vehicles does not appear in the list of critical manufacturing businesses. Tesla is also alone in that every other major auto manufacturer has ceased operations in compliance with the memorandum.
Valerie Workman
, head of human resources at Tesla had thought that Tesla would be considered an essential business as part of the national critical infrastructure. Workman said: " “People need access to transportation and energy, and we are essential to providing it,” she reportedly wrote in the email, adding that Tesla has “been in close communication with the State of California, Alameda County, and the City of Fremont, regarding the federal government’s guidance.” " However, Tesla's viewpoint failed to prevail. The Fremont plant produces Model 3, Model S, Model X and Model Y versions of Tesla's EVs.
At first the company had indicated that it would comply with the March 16 order to shut down. Kimberly Petersen the chief of police had written to Tesla's senior policy advisor Dan Chia: “I would like to reiterate that the City of Fremont highly values Tesla as a partner and appreciates what you do for our economy and our community,” Petersen wrote in her email memorializing the meeting, which was dated March 21st. “We are extremely grateful for your willingness to collaborate in our fight against the spread of COVID-19 by placing public health ahead of all other priorities.”
However later, that same day Chia told the deputy city mayor that Petersen's letter was not fully accurate and that another virtual meeting was scheduled for March the 22nd. Tesla's counsel argued that the shelter-in-place order of the California Governor Gavin Newson superseded the county order suspending production, and the language of his order left room for the plant to remain open. However, police chief Petersen said she felt obliged to enforce the county health's interpretation of the order.
Tesla continues winding down operations
Tesla decided that it would continue winding down its operation in the Fremont factory except for basic operations such as payroll. The company said a few workers would be brought in for what is called "end of work" operations. The Fremont police department has found Tesla to be in compliance with the local order after a post-shutdown inspection of the plant.
Tesla has shut down other operations
Tesla has scaled down operations at its Gigafactory battery and assembly plant in Nevada by more than 75 percent. It has also closed down its solar panel factory in New York. Petersen noted that the Fremont factory could have remained open if it had transitioned to making ventilators or other equipment used in combating the coronavirus pandemic. However CEO Elon Musk said that he intended to manufacture ventilators with the aid of Medtronic in Tesla's New York factory. So perhaps the New York factory will reopen soon.
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