Elon Musk says Tesla Inc.’s California factory has resumed production but local authorities late Wednesday said the company has assured them that activity is limited and the auto maker wasn’t being given an exception to their order requiring nonessential businesses to stop operations.
Tesla’s claim will be verified by the local police, the county said, in the latest twist to a multiday saga pitting Tesla’s outspoken CEO against officials in Alameda County, where the car maker’s lone U.S. assembly plant is located.
The authorities were caught off guard when Mr. Musk on Monday announced on Twitter he was resuming production at the facility in Fremont, Calif., in violation of their order to keep the site idle as part of broader efforts to stop the spread of the novel coronavirus in the San Francisco Bay Area. Late Tuesday, the county signaled it would officially approve Tesla to resume production next week. And about 24 hours later the county released a statement on its website saying the auto maker isn’t being given an exception to the restrictions.
“We have met with Tesla representatives and have confirmed that Tesla is not engaged in full operations, contrary to media reports,” the county said. “Tesla has confirmed that its operations require a substantial lead time to become fully operational, and their current operations are only slightly above minimum business operations.”
Workers say they’ve been called back to work and the factory’s parking lot has been filled with cars amid a flurry of activity at the facility. Mr. Musk shared a Twitter message from an apparent employee praising him for implementing social-distancing measures at the factory and on the company’s buses.
“Given the unique nature and scale of automobile manufacturing and the safety measures agreed to by Tesla, we concluded that ramp up activity with a minimal increase in minimum basic operations can occur safely,” the county said.
The county directed questions about what was found at the factory to Fremont police. The police said they visited the factory Wednesday afternoon but declined to say what they found. “We had full access to the facility and will report our findings to the county tomorrow,” a police spokeswoman said. “We won’t be sharing any details in advance of sharing the information with the county.”
Tesla didn’t respond to a request for comment.