“He’s one of the biggest employers and manufacturers in California, and California should prioritize doing whatever they need to do to solve those health issues so that he can open quickly or safely or they’re going to find, as he’s threatened, he’s moving his production to a different state,” Mnuchin said.
Indeed, that would be a threat local officials would likely be concerned about. Today, the Fremont, California, factory can produce as many as 400,000 vehicles annually. And Tesla’s campus there employs more than 10,000 people, according to Tesla. (It’s not clear how many of those people work on the production line as opposed to management, engineering or other roles.)
But a car factory is not something that would be easy to pack up and move on short notice. Even if Musk was fortunate enough to find an existing factory site in Texas or Nevada, as he did in Fremont a decade ago, the coronavirus threat will likely have passed by the time all that happens.
Let’s take a careful walk through Musk’s tweets, keeping in mind that his Twitter account can be a confusing and unpredictable place for a stroll. Tesla has not responded to emails requesting comment or clarification on its plans or on Musk’s tweets.
But Musk also said Tesla would move its “HQ,” or headquarters. That could mean a lot. Or it could mean nothing.
Tesla would hardly be the first automaker to move its headquarters out of California. Nissan USA moved its headquarters from Gardena, California, to Franklin, Tennessee, beginning in 2006, taking with it 1,300 workers. Toyota USA announced in 2014 that it was moving its headquarters to Plano, Texas, another move that took at least 2,000 paying positions out of California.
Tesla moving its headquarters could, potentially, mean as little as Musk renaming an office in Texas or Nevada — states where Tesla and his other company, SpaceX — already have operations, as “Tesla’s headquarters.” Or it could mean that Tesla vacates Fremont, leaving only the actual factory there.
Regarding that factory, Musk has only threatened to close it if local officials don’t cooperate with him. “If we even retain Fremont manufacturing activity at all, it will be dependen[t] on how Tesla is treated in the future,” Musk wrote.
“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 agency said.