By Tim Higgins 

Tesla Inc. Chief Executive Elon Musk says he's ready to abandon California as the home of the electric-car maker and is taking his fight to reopen the auto maker's lone U.S. assembly factory to court after local government officials on Friday told the company it couldn't reopen amid efforts to fight the coronavirus pandemic.

While other parts of California are reopening after shelter-in-place orders have shut down nonessential businesses since March, Tesla's factory is located in Fremont, near San Francisco, where local government authorities are taking a more stringent approach to fighting the Covid-19 outbreak.

Mr. Musk, via Twitter, on Saturday said: "Tesla is filing a lawsuit against Alameda County immediately. The unelected & ignorant "Interim Health Officer" of Alameda is acting contrary to the Governor, the President, our Constitutional freedoms & just plain common sense!"

The county health department didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.

Tesla initially fought to stay open in March when the local order was first announced but eventually relented under pressure, stopping production on March 23. It had hoped to reopen resume manufacturing on May 4, a day after the shelter-in-place had been scheduled to be lifted but that order was extended last week through the end of May, sparking Mr. Musk to call such restrictions a violation of people's rights and equated them to fascism.

After California Gov. Gavin Newsom on Thursday said the state would begin phasing in the reopening of some businesses, including manufacturing, Mr. Musk cheered the news on Twitter and sent a memo to his employees saying the factory would resume work on Friday. But hours later, the Alameda Public Health Department said in a statement that Tesla had been informed that it couldn't reopen yet.

Mr. Musk, a frequent user of Twitter, on Saturday said on the social-media site: "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."

Gov. Newsom has said he supports local communities enforcing stronger shelter-in-place even as other parts of the state come online.

Mr. Musk in March said Tesla was seeking a site for a new U.S. automobile assembly factory. "Incentives play a role, but so do logistics costs, access to a large workforce with a wide range of talents, and quality of life," he told The Wall Street Journal at the time.

Tesla began the year planning to boost deliveries more than 36%, though on an earnings call last month didn't reiterate the guidance and said it was too early to say what the impact of the Covid-19 heath crisis would be on its business.

In an interview with Joe Rogan's podcast released Thursday, Mr. Musk called the orders a violation of the U.S. Constitutional right to assemble. "I don't think these things stand up in court," Mr. Musk said. "We should be concerned about anything that is a massive infringement on our civil liberties."

Write to Tim Higgins at Tim.Higgins@WSJ.com

 

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

May 09, 2020 14:06 ET (18:06 GMT)

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