Tesla, the luxury electric carmaker, said Thursday that it would shut down production at its San Francisco Bay Area factory, which has remained open for several days in apparent defiance of a local county order.
The carmaker had caused an uproar by continuing production even after Alameda County officials issued a shelter-at-home order that applied to businesses and individuals. Tesla did not qualify as an “essential business,” which would have exempted it from the order.
“In the past few days, we have met with local, state and federal officials,” Tesla said in a statement Thursday. “Despite taking all known health precautions, continued operations in certain locations has caused challenges for our employees, their families and our suppliers.”
Production at the factory, in Fremont, California, will stop at the end of the day Monday to allow for an “orderly shutdown,” the company said. It will also temporarily suspend production at a factory in Buffalo, New York. Work elsewhere, including at its Gigafactory in Nevada, will continue, it said. Tesla also said that it had continued operating out of its Fremont factory at the “federal government’s direction.”
Tesla’s chief executive, Elon Musk has repeatedly played down the threat of the coronavirus outbreak, which has brought the world economy to its knees. On Twitter, he has described panic over the virus as “dumb.”
On Thursday afternoon, Musk predicted on Twitter that new coronavirus infections would come to a virtual end in the United States by the end of April.
In an email Wednesday, Valerie Workman, Tesla’s head of human resources for North America, said that employees who were reluctant to go to work were allowed to stay home, but would need to use paid time off if they wanted to be compensated while doing so.
Carlos Gabriel, who works at the factory, said he had been frustrated by what he described as the company’s slow and disappointing response to the outbreak.
“Tell us your plan,” he said, adding, “We have to defend our families.”
Gabriel, who said he had been out sick all week with flulike symptoms, also started a petition calling on the company to close any plant at the first sign of contamination from the coronavirus and put all employees affected by such closures on paid sick leave until the plants reopened.