Tesla has defied lockdown orders to reopen its factory in California, receiving support from President Trump despite opposition from local government.
Production at the company’s plant in Fremont, near San Francisco, restarted this week in violation of a local coronavirus shutdown order.
On Monday Alameda County, where the factory is located, sent Tesla’s health and safety chief a letter demanding that it cease all but core operations.
“If the reports we have received are true, Tesla is engaging in work beyond minimum basic operations, and is in violation of the health officer order,” the letter says.
“We hope that Tesla – like other businesses who have been notified of non- compliance – comes into compliance with the Order without the need for additional enforcement measures.”
The county says it still needs to see Tesla’s plan for operating safely during the pandemic, which is a requirement to allow it to reopen.
California governor Gavin Newsom on Monday said that he was unaware of the reopening but that counties had the power to enforce local rules.
On Tuesday Mr Musk, who has vocally opposed lockdown measures for several weeks, received support from US President Donald Trump. “California should let Tesla & @elonmusk open the plant, NOW. It can be done Fast & Safely!” the President tweeted.
California should let Tesla & @elonmusk open the plant, NOW. It can be done Fast & Safely!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 12, 2020
Mr Musk has continually railed against lockdown measures that have kept Tesla’s factories closed. Last month he declared the measures “fascist” and said that local officials were “forcibly imprisoning people in their homes”.
He has also voiced support for theories arguing that the virus is less dangerous than public health authorities believe and that lockdowns are damaging the economy unnecessarily.
As measures to control the virus were first introduced in March, Tesla resisted efforts to close its factories, and Mr Musk said the reaction to the global outbreak had been “dumb”.
His push to keep manufacturing going comes as his company seeks to ramp up production of the Model Y, a mass-market SUV that Mr Musk expects to become Tesla’s best selling vehicle.
Tesla filed a lawsuit against Alameda County over the weekend, arguing that it was unfairly barred from reopening while other California factories were resuming operations.
Despite the controversies, Tesla’s shares have more than doubled since mid March, and are close to all-time highs.