Tesla's California factory is now ground zero in the politically fraught debate about how revive economic activity nationwide — and the decisions can have potentially life-or-death consequences for workers.
Driving the news: Tesla CEO Elon Musk yesterday announced reopening the electric automaker's Fremont manufacturing plant in defiance of county officials.
- "I will be on the line with everyone else. If anyone is arrested, I ask that it only be me," Musk said via Twitter.
- The company says it's employing "comprehensive safety measures."
- But the Washington Post quotes several workers, who spoke anonymously to protect their jobs, saying safety practices were inadequate.
Why it matters: Tesla dominates U.S. EV sales and has a growing global footprint, despite its volatile economic performance for years before becoming slightly profitable in recent quarters.
- And as Axios' Dan Primack notes, this is the highest-profile battle so far between a private company and public health officials.
What they're saying: Alameda County health officials yesterday said Tesla was in violation of their orders.
- They said in a statement that they hoped Tesla would comply with local rules "without further enforcement measures," and that they look forward to an agreement on a "protocol and timeline" to safely reopen.
- Tesla filed a lawsuit against the county over the weekend.
Threat level: Tesla CFO Zach Kirkhorn said during their first quarter earnings call that the shutdown will "have an impact on our near-term financial performance."
- But Kirkhorn expressed confidence they'll have "sufficient liquidity" to proceed with key investments based on various scenarios modeled into 2021.
- Tesla's battle with county officials comes as Detroit auto giants like Ford and GM prepare to restart plants in coming days.
The big picture: Bloomberg's coverage sums it up well...
"To Musk supporters, he’s a hero fighting back against unnecessary government intervention. To his detractors, he’s a reckless and impulsive leader who’s encouraging dangerous behavior that could set back efforts to quell the pandemic."
The intrigue: Musk is no stranger to controversy, but he's in uncharted waters — legally and image-wise — with his open defiance of country orders in a state that's Tesla's largest market.
- None of his past imbroglios, such as the ill-fated take-private plans, have been so tethered to public health decisions.
One big question: Is Musk — who has been attacking lockdowns for weeks — risking a consumer backlash at a time when competitors plan to bring a suite of new models to market?
- The Sacramento Bee on Sunday posted a scathing editorial, calling Musk a "bullying troll with no regard for anything beyond his own business interests."