Local officials have confirmed that Tesla stopped making electric cars in California on Monday, March 23, in accordance with a shelter order caused by the new coronavirus pandemic. But dozens of workers had to report to the company’s auto factory this week to process the last batches of cars, according to an email to some of those workers obtained by The edge and the account of one of the factory employees.
This is because Tesla confirmed the first two cases of COVID-19 among its office workers on Thursday, according to another email viewed by The edge after it was first reported by Business insider and Electrek. Tesla is also making a staff cut for the first time during the pandemic by temporarily stopping some workers in Norway, a stronghold for electric vehicles.
The email to factory workers, sent before the production stop, informed some of these ‘end-of-line’ workers to continue reporting to the car factory to perform quality checks, make repairs, and charge the cars and ready to make before delivery. Tesla management, they were told, essentially wanted all departments working on a car after it left the production line to continue reporting to the factory until the cars were ready for delivery. The current employee, who was granted anonymity for fearing retaliation, confirmed that many of these workers were reported to the factory all week.
A spokesman for the local police told it The edge that it “visited and inspected Tesla [on Wednesday] and found that their current level of operation was in line with “the shelter-in-place order.” Their vehicle assembly line has stopped and they have only a small number of workers in the factory. They have also put a lot of effort into implementing social distance measures, “they said.
Factory workers were also told in the email that they would not receive the paid leave that Tesla had promised until their own department was finally closed. All employees who were unwell or uncomfortable coming to work were encouraged to use accrued time off or take unpaid leave, as the company used to do before the closure was announced last week.
The current factory worker said Tesla’s end-of-line process usually takes a few hours for a “moderate problem” car. But they also said the company ended production on Monday with a higher number of cars considered “work in progress”, which therefore required more end work.
According to Sam Abuelsamid, chief analyst at Navigant Research, cars coming from the production lines of older car manufacturers usually complete the end-of-line checks within minutes. Tesla did not respond to questions about the end of the line or the employees who tested positive for COVID-19.
Tesla had kept the factory in Fremont, California open last week, even after the shelter placement order went into effect on March 17 in the San Francisco Bay Area. The company had just started supplying Model Y, its fifth electric car, and was in the midst of a typical quarter-end push to make and deliver as many cars as possible.
At the same time that CEO Elon Musk interrupted the threat of the coronavirus, almost every other major car manufacturer suspended production operations in the United States following a deal between Ford, General Motors, Fiat Chrysler and the United Auto Workers union. Tesla, the largest auto company in the U.S. with no union members, told some of its employees last week that they should work remotely, if possible, while the factory remained open.
The company finally announced on March 19 that it would fulfill the Bay Area order and shut down operations at its California plant, where Model 3, Model S, Model X, and now Model Y will be assembled, and agreed in the workforce to “basic operations” such as payroll processing. Tesla announced the same day that it would also interrupt operations at its New York solar panel factory, but that the Gigafactory would continue to operate in Nevada despite the governor’s request. close all non-essential companies.
It is currently unclear in which office the two infected Tesla employees work. Laurie Shelby, who heads Tesla’s environmental, health and safety department, said in the email that the two employees “worked at home for almost two weeks” before testing positive for COVID-19. Shelby said that employees did not show any symptoms of the disease while in the office and that their “immediate colleagues, who had also been working from home for almost two weeks, were immediately alerted to quarantine and watch for symptoms.” Both workers were “quarantined at home and recovering well,” Shelby wrote.
Tesla briefly closed its newest factory in China earlier this year as part of a government-imposed effort to quell the spread of the virus. But Musk tweeted Wednesday that he plans to reopen the New York plant “as soon as humanly possible” as Tesla joins efforts to help increase fan production critical to treating the worst symptoms of COVID -19.