By Tim Higgins 

Elon Musk said Tesla Inc. is resuming production of cars at its lone U.S. assembly factory outside of San Francisco, in defiance of local authorities that have ordered the plant to remain shut down as part of the area's efforts to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus.

The chief executive announced the plans on Twitter Monday: "I will be on the line with everyone else," he wrote. "If anyone is arrested, I ask that it only be me."

The Silicon Valley car maker filed a lawsuit in federal court on Saturday asking a judge to allow it to reopen the factory, arguing in part that Alameda County, where the facility is located, had overstepped its power in blocking the operational resumption even as the governor started letting manufacturing in the state to restart last week. Mr. Musk blasted the move and said over the weekend he was going to move the Palo Alto-based company's headquarters out of state.

The CEO announced Tesla's production plans shortly after California Gov. Gavin Newsom held a press conference during which he was asked several questions about the auto maker, including about photos of the Fremont factory's parking lot showing it full of cars, possibly indicating there was activity at the site.

Mr. Newsom said he expects Tesla would be able to resume car manufacturing as early as next week at its plant, which local authorities first ordered to close in March as part of efforts to stop the spread of Covid-19.

During the press call, Mr. Newsom backed the county's slower plan to phase in nonessential businesses. "I have great expectations that we can work through at the county level the issue with this particular county and company in the next number of days," he said.

Tesla workers said they have been instructed to report back to work this week. The company didn't respond to a request for comment.

Mr. Newsom also said he expected ties between Tesla and the Golden State to remain strong after Mr. Musk threatened the move. "I have more confidence moving forward in our ability to support a company that this state has substantively supported for now many, many years, and in return we have been beneficiaries of their incredible growth, ingenuity and innovative spirit. We look forward to many, many decades of that relationship."

Shortly before the start of the daily briefing, which was broadcasted on social media, Tesla board member Kimbal Musk, the CEO's brother, was critical of the governor on Twitter. "The governor has enormous power," he wrote. "He chose to put it into the hands of the county and he can take back that decision. This is on @GavinNewsom entirely. Deciding the future of @tesla on the whim of a part time interim health director was his decision and he can easily revert it."

--Timothy Puko contributed to this article.

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

 

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

May 11, 2020 17:21 ET (21:21 GMT)

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