Tesla restarted work at its Fremont, California-based car factory this week, in defiance of a local shutdown order. The EV maker is also reportedly beginning to ramp production back up at its Gigafactory in Nevada as that state reopens, according to reporting from the Verge.
That leaves just one of the company’s U.S.-based plants closed: the Buffalo, New York plant, known as Gigafactory 2, where Tesla produces its solar roof and some energy storage and charging products. Mentions of the Buffalo plant have been mysteriously absent from Musk’s Twitter feed, where the CEO has called local shutdown orders “fascist” and concerns around the coronavirus pandemic “dumb.”
Musk’s silence on the Buffalo plant comes in contrast to his aggressive moves to reopen Tesla’s other manufacturing centers.
In California, Tesla filed a lawsuit against Alameda County, where Tesla’s plant is located, arguing the plant could operate as an essential business. The county had previously said manufacturing could not continue there, but on Tuesday county officials said the plant may soon reopen if Tesla follows certain safety procedures. Some workers have reported lackadaisical implementation of safety measures and concerns about returning. California has begun a phased reopening, but counties are able to enact more stringent requirements. Alameda County's shelter-in-place order lasts through the end of the month.
In Nevada, Tesla kept open its Gigafactory, where it produces batteries, but reduced the workforce by 75 percent. Panasonic, Tesla’s partner at the Nevada plant, suspended its own operations there.
Tesla wants more time for New York jobs target
Tesla did not respond to requests for comment on plans to reopen its Buffalo factory, which began production in 2017.
Tesla told New York officials it would furlough most workers at the Buffalo plant in early April. Due to the suspension of activities there, Tesla described plans in its quarterly earnings filing to apply for an extension to meet jobs and investment targets it is required to reach under an agreement with New York state.
In February, Panasonic announced it would end its partnership at the Buffalo facility and filed a notice that it would reduce its workforce there by 375 people starting at the end of May. Tesla had hoped to hire many of those employees; it’s unclear whether the coronavirus has impacted those plans.
Last month, Tesla reported it had reached its goal of manufacturing 1,000 solar roofs per week in the first quarter — though it was unclear whether the company could sustain that production. Like many other energy companies, Tesla put its 2020 guidance “on hold.” Tesla's residential solar installations dropped during the first quarter.
"COVID essentially shut us down,” Musk said on the call.
The shutdown order for New York, the state with the most recorded coronavirus cases and deaths, ends May 15, and Governor Cuomo has outlined a process for a phased reopening. As of this week, the area of western New York where Buffalo is located has not met all of the criteria the governor required to begin opening. Erie County had reported 4,606 cases as of Thursday, according to tracking from The New York Times.
Several Tesla employees have also reportedly tested positive for COVID-19, although the company has not specified where each of them is located.
(Photo credit: Buffaboy/CC BY-SA/cropped)