Tesla is responding to a local "shelter in place" order after all, temporarily cutting staff in Fremont.
Tesla will temporarily reduce the number of staff at its Fremont, California production plant by 75%, from 10,000 to 2,500 personnel, in response to fears of the novel coronavirus's spread. Previously, the company appeared poised to continue business as usual, reportedly managing to get an exemption from a local "shelter in place" order affecting six counties in the San Francisco Bay Area.
But Automotive News reports that the Tesla Fremont factory's continued operation was, in fact, in defiance of a local sheriff's order. The Fremont plant is Tesla's only US vehicle assembly plant, building the company's entire product portfolio for sale worldwide: the Tesla Model S and Model 3 sedans, and the Model X and Model Y crossovers.
"We had a positive conversation, and it sounds like they are beginning to comply with the health order," says the spokesman for the Alameda County Sheriff's Office spokesperson Ray Kelly. "In war times, all automakers are considered vital national infrastructure, but this is a different era. This is a health pandemic."
The shelter in place order in effect in the Bay Area is meant to slow the spread of the COVID-19 novel coronavirus by keeping most non-essential workers - those in emergency response and the medical field, for example - at home. Non-essential businesses are restricted to only those necessary to maintain "minimum basic operations," Automotive News reports. Tesla, apparently, felt that meant the Fremont plant's entire staff.
Tesla is just the latest US automaker to reduce factory worker staff or cease production altogether. On Wednesday, Ford, GM, and FCA all agreed to abide by UAW requests and temporarily shutter their North American manufacturing plants for deep cleaning and to keep workers distant while the outbreak still appears to be rampant. That action followed numerous plant closings in countries around the world, especially in hard-hit regions like Italy.