Try and Stop Me: In Defiance of County Orders, Tesla Turns on the Lights

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems

Furious over a decision by county officials to keep all non-essential businesses offline until the end of the month, Tesla CEO Elon Musk announced late Monday that his Fremont, California assembly plant is opening up anyway.

The move comes two days after the automaker filed a lawsuit against Alameda County. In it, Tesla called the county’s order unconstitutional and in violation of California Governor Gavin Newson’s statewide return-to-work mandate. Should county officials call in the cops, Musk wishes to be the only one in cuffs.

Call him the Rosa Parks of well-compensated CEOs forcing workers back to the assembly line in the midst of a health crisis. Call him a hero for the planet and for personal liberty. Whatever the appropriate framing, it’s vintage Musk.

Online backlash, as you’d imagine, was predictably scathing.

Tesla is restarting production today against Alameda County rules. I will be on the line with everyone else. If anyone is arrested, I ask that it only be me.

— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) May 11, 2020

In his rationale for the lawsuit, Musk pointed out that counties on either side of Fremont were relaxing stay-at-home orders and allowing businesses to reopen. Over the weekend, a county supervisor noted in an interview with The New York Times that, while working with the plant to approve it for reopening, Musk threatened him with a lawsuit after being told his preferred May 11th start date was unfeasible. May 18th, however, seemed a likely possibility.

Musk then announced on Twitter that he was seeking to move his company’s headquarters and all future product out of the state.

Yes, California approved, but an unelected county official illegally overrode. Also, all other auto companies in US are approved to resume. Only Tesla has been singled out. This is super messed up!

— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) May 11, 2020

Ford, General Motors, and Fiat Chrysler are poised to resume production on May 18th. Some automakers operating in the U.S., like Honda, Toyota, BMW, Hyundai, and Kia, have already returned to work, albeit in a limited fashion.

In a statement released Monday, the Alameda County Public Health Department said, “We continue to move closer to an agreed upon safety plan for reopening beyond Minimum Basic Operations by working through steps that Tesla has agreed to adopt.

“These steps include improving employee health screening procedures and engaging front-line staff on their concerns and feedback regarding safety protocols.”

Gov. Newsom gave Musk a shout-out on Monday, stating that he had great “reverence” for Tesla and its products and adding that any issue with the county would be worked through in the coming days. This earned him a “thank you” from Musk.

Steph Willems
Steph Willems

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  • Duncanator Duncanator on May 12, 2020

    No politics in this, but I thought the point was to flatten the curve and prevent the hospitals from being overloaded. It seems like that happened, so why can't things open up a little? Here in CA, where the Fremont plant is, there are 69,417 confirmed cases and 2,789 deaths ( In a state with close to 40 million people, that's really, really low.

    • See 2 previous
    • Daniel J Daniel J on May 13, 2020

      @duncanator, I believe the original story was to flatten the curve and to *slow* down the rate of infection to keep the Hospitals from being overrun. Now it seems the *story*, especially from the far left, is to stay closed so *no one* else gets infected. That is just an untenable position. "Your going to get people killed" and "your state is murdering people" is the position now, especially as southern *republican* states open back up. Putting my tin foil hat on for a second, I think its a position to get people behind a UBI. A UBI would have solved all these problems right? Wrong. Even if we did have a UBI, that money would have to come through taxation. There isn't much less revenue when things shutdown for a UBI to get its money from. We'd have to assume this UBI would be backstopped for at least several years. We know that unemployment is barely backstopped 3 months for any state's average unemployment rate. What makes anyone think we'd backstop a UBI program for months or years even if we *could* get the money. Its about getting money from the rich, and a UBI still couldn't be funded from the rich. They don't have *that* much money to tax. It would cost about 5 Trillion dollars a year to give all Americans over 16 2000 a month. Half that if we want to make it 1000 a month. The federal Government only brings in about 3 Trillion a year in revenue.

  • SaulTigh SaulTigh on May 12, 2020

    Well, we're gonna find out soon enough from the States out here in flyover country that are reopening. My feeling is that many of the flyover states will be OK, without any major outbreaks, and that come the end of the summer we'll have a distinct dichotomy between those states (which will be recovering economically) and the ones still locked down. As if we needed another reason to break along political lines, but there you go.

  • Bd2 Probably too late to do anything about it for the launch, but Kia should plan on doing an extensive refresh of the front fascia (the earlier, the better) as the design looks really ungainly.
  • Namesakeone Since I include SUVs and minivans as trucks, I really cannot think of a brand that is truly truckless. MG maybe?
  • Sobhuza Trooper Subaru, they were almost there with the BRAT. --On a lighter note, where the hell is my Cooper Works Mini truck?
  • Mike Evs do suck, though. I mean, they really do.
  • Steve Biro I don’t care what brand but it needs to be a compact two-door with an ICE, traditional parallel hybrid or both. A manual transmission option would be nice but I don’t expect it - especially with a hybrid. Don’t show me an EV.