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Elon Musk just put a new person in charge of production at Tesla’s Fremont factory

On the same day that Elon Musk defied local regulations and reopened Tesla’s factory in Fremont, California, the CEO put a new person in charge of production.

Musk named Richard Miller, who was director of paint operations at Tesla, to head of production at the factory, according to an internal email sent to employees Monday and viewed by TechCrunch. It appears that Miller replaces Jatinder Dhillon, who was the company’s manufacturing director. CNBC reported in March that Dhillon had left the company, although his LinkedIn profile still shows he is at the company and in the same role.

An email has been sent to Musk and Tesla for comment.

“Due to excellent performance as head of paint operations in Fremont, Richard Miller is hereby promoted to overall head of Fremont Production. Congratulations!,” the email reads.

The promotion comes at a chaotic moment for Musk and Tesla. Production at the company’s Fremont factory — where its electric vehicles are assembled — has been suspended since March 23 due to stay-at-home orders issued by Alameda County and Gov. Gavin Newsom. Musk restarted production Monday in direct conflict with county orders.

Tesla had planned to bring back about 30% of its factory workers May 8 as part of its reopening plan, after Newsom issued new guidance that would allow manufacturers to resume operations. However, the governor’s guidance included a warning that local governments could keep more restrictive rules in place. Alameda County, along with several other Bay Area counties and cities, have extended the stay-at-home orders through the end of May. The orders were revised and did ease some of the restrictions. However, it did not lift the order for manufacturing.

Musk has been at war with Alameda County, specifically aiming his ire at health officials, ever since the order was extended. Over the weekend, he threatened to sue and pull operations out of California. Tesla filed a lawsuit later that day against Alameda County seeking injunctive relief.

On Monday, Musk escalated matters further and announced on Twitter that he had restarted production.

Musk wrote he would  “be on the line,” a reference to the assembly line at the factory where Tesla makes the Model X, Model S, Model 3 and Model Y. He added “if anyone is arrested, I ask that it only be me.”

Alameda County issued a statement Monday acknowledging that it had learned that the Tesla factory in had opened beyond “minimum basic operations,” which was allowed.

“We have notified Tesla that they can only maintain Minimum Basic Operations until we have an approved plan that can be implemented in accordance with the local public health order,” the statement sent to TechCrunch said. “We are addressing this matter using the same phased approach we use for other businesses which have violated the order in the past, and we hope that Tesla will likewise comply without further enforcement measures.”

The county added that since April 30 it has “continued to collaborate in good faith with Tesla to present a plan for reopening the Fremont plant that ensures the safety of their thousands of employees and the communities in which they live and work, and that also aligns with local and state requirements.”

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

The county said it expected Tesla to submit a site-specific plan later Monday as required under the State of California guidance and checklist for manufacturing issued on May 7.

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Tesla sues Alameda County to force California factory reopening

Tesla filed a lawsuit Saturday against Alameda County in an effort to invalidate orders that have prevented the automaker from reopening its factory in Fremont, California.

The lawsuit, which seeks injunctive and declaratory relief against Alameda County, was first reported by CNBC. The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court for California’s Northern District.

Earlier Saturday, Tesla CEO Elon Musk tweeted that he was filing a lawsuit against Alameda County and threatened to move its headquarters and future programs to Texas or Nevada immediately.

Tesla had planned to bring back about 30% of its factory workers Friday as part of its reopening plan, defying Alameda County’s stay-at-home order. Musk was basing the reopening on new guidance issued Thursday by California Gov. Gavin Newsom that allows manufacturers to resume operations. The guidance won praise from Musk, who later sent an internal email to employees about plans to reopen based on the governor’s revised order. However, the governor’s guidance included a warning that local governments could keep more restrictive rules in place. Alameda County, along with several other Bay Area counties and cities, last week extended the stay-at-home orders through the end of May. The orders were revised and did ease some of the restrictions. However, it did not lift the order for manufacturing.

The lawsuit argues that by preventing Tesla from opening, the Alameda County is going against its own guidance.

“Alameda County has expressly recognized and publicized that “businesses may . . . operate to manufacture” batteries and electric vehicles,” the complaint reads. “Inexplicably, however, the Third Order as well as County officials have simultaneously insisted that Tesla must remain shuttered, thereby further compounding the ambiguity, confusion and irrationality surrounding Alameda County’s position as to whether Tesla may resume manufacturing activities at its Fremont Factory and elsewhere in the County.”

The term “third order” is a reference to a revised stay-in-place order issued by Alameda County.

On Friday, the Alameda County Health Department said Tesla had not been given “the green light” to reopen and said if the company did, it would be out of compliance with the order.

Read the full complaint here.

Tesla v Alameda County Comp… by TechCrunch on Scribd

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Elon Musk threatens to pull Tesla operations out of California and into Texas or Nevada

Tesla CEO Elon Musk said Saturday the company will file a lawsuit against Alameda County and threatened to move its headquarters and future programs to Texas or Nevada immediately, escalating a fight between the company and health officials over whether its factory in Fremont can reopen.

Tesla had planned to bring back about 30% of its factory workers Friday as part of its reopening plan, defying Alameda County’s stay-at-home order.

TechCrunch has reached out to Elon Musk directly. We will update the story if he responds.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom issued new guidance Thursday that allowed manufacturers to resume operations. The guidance won praise from Musk, who later sent an internal email to employees about plans to reopen based on the governor’s revised order. However, the governor’s guidance included a warning that local governments could keep more restrictive rules in place. Alameda County, along with several other Bay Area counties and cities, last week extended the stay-at-home orders through the end of May. The orders were revised and did ease some of the restrictions. However, it did not lift the order for manufacturing.

On Friday, the Alameda County Health Department said Tesla had not been given “the green light” to reopen and said if the company did, it would be out of compliance with the order.

In the tweet, Musk said Tesla is filing a lawsuit against Alameda County immediately. In a later tweet, he also encouraged shareholders to file a lawsuit against the county.

“The unelected & ignorant “Interim Health Officer” of Alameda is acting contrary to the Governor, the President and our Constitutional freedoms & just plain common sense!,” the tweet said. He followed up with another tweet claiming that Tesla will now move its HQ and future programs to Texas or Nevada immediately.

“If we even retain Fremont manufacturing activity at all, it will be dependent on how Tesla is treated in the future. Tesla is the last carmaker left in CA,” Musk wrote.

Tesla has operations in Nevada; it doesn’t in Texas. The company’s massive battery factory – known as Gigafactory 1 — is located in Sparks, Nevada. Tesla is seeking out a new location to build a new U.S. gigafactory that will produce the Cybertruck and Model Y crossover. Some have speculated that Texas is a top pick.

Sources have told TechCrunch that Tesla is in talks with Nashville officials to locate a factory there that will produce the Cybertruck and Model Y crossover.

“Scouting locations for Cybertruck Gigafactory. Will be central USA,” Musk tweeted in March. He added that the factory would be used to produce Model Y crossovers for the East Coast market. The first Model Y vehicles are being produced at its plant in Fremont.

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Tesla prepares to bring back 30% of Fremont factory workers in spite of county order

Tesla is aiming to ramp up “limited operations” at its factory in Fremont, Calif., a decision that puts the company and its CEO Elon Musk in direct conflict with a stay-at-home order in Alameda County.

Employees received two emails — one from Musk and another from Valerie Workman, the company’s human resources director — indicating that the factory would open as early as Friday. Bloomberg was the first to report the emails. The decision to open was based on new guidance from Gov. Gavin Newsom, who said Thursday that manufacturers could resume operations.

However, Tesla is ignoring other parts of Newsom’s announcement, specifically that local governments could keep more restrictive rules in place. Tesla’s Fremont factory is located in Alameda County, which along with several other Bay Area counties and cities, issued revised stay-at-home orders that will last through the end of May. Those revised orders did ease some of the restrictions. However, if followed, Tesla wouldn’t be allowed to restart production of its Model S, Model X, Model 3 and now Model Y vehicles until June 1.

Officials at Alameda County could not be reached for comment. However, the county and other surrounding Bay Area cities and counties issued a joint statement Thursday, reiterating its order:

It is important that our local communities understand that the regional Health Orders that took effect May 4 are still in effect. These orders — in Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, San Francisco, San Mateo and Santa Clara counties and the City of Berkeley — loosen restrictions on construction as well as outdoor activities and businesses. The Bay Area orders do not currently permit curbside pickup from non-essential, nonoutdoor businesses, and that is not allowed to begin on Friday, May 8.

Later in the statement, the officials said “in our current environment, if a county order differs from a state order, the more restrictive order takes precedence.”

Tesla did not respond to requests for comment.

Tesla has battled with Alameda officials before over regulations put in place due to COVID-19. The dispute began March 16 after Alameda County ordered all nonessential businesses to close, including bars, gyms and dine-in restaurants, because of the global spread of COVID-19.

Tesla kept the Fremont factory open despite the order, claiming that part of the company’s operations fell under an exemption in the county’s order. Musk told employees in an email that the company would continue operations at the Fremont factory. He also told employees they should not feel obligated to come to work if they “feel the slightest bit ill or even uncomfortable.”

The Alameda County Sheriff disagreed, and on March 17 tweeted that Tesla was not “essential.” The automaker still ignored the order and the sheriff’s tweet. Employees received another email from Workman that the factory was still open for production, because it had “conflicting guidance from different levels of government.” The email told employees to come to work if their job is to produce, service, deliver or test its electric vehicles.

A week after the order went into effect, Tesla suspended production at the Fremont factory. Basic operations have continued at the factory per an agreement with the county. The company said at the time it would suspend production through May 4, prompting it to cut pay for salaried employees between 10% and 30%, as well as furlough workers.

But toward the end of April, the Bay Area counties extended the stay-at-home order, triggering a tweetstorm from Musk, who criticized the rules and at one point wrote “FREE AMERICA NOW.”

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