(Reuters) – Tesla Inc on Thursday ended a standoff with local California authorities concerned about the spread of the coronavirus, saying it will suspend production at its San Francisco Bay Area vehicle factory on March 24.
The company said its New York solar roof tile factory will also temporarily suspend production, while operations at its Nevada battery plant will continue.
“Despite taking all known health precautions, continued operations in certain locations has caused challenges for our employees, their families and our suppliers,” the company said in a statement.
Tesla’s shares were down 8% in after-hours trading following the announcement.
The decision to suspend production at the Fremont, California, plant comes as Tesla ramps up production of its Model Y sport utility vehicle at the factory. Demand for the Model Y is expected to be higher than for all of Tesla’s other models combined, Chief Executive Elon Musk has said.
Musk on Thursday tweeted that Tesla’s China operations were running “normally across hundreds of suppliers & all of Tesla Shanghai.” The Shanghai factory is key to Tesla’s growth strategy and the company plans to expand car production capacity there.
Tesla’s decision to suspend production came after several days of discussions with local officials and after the company met on Thursday with the city of Fremont.
The highly contagious respiratory illness has infected more than 10,700 in the United States.
The automaker also said it believed it had enough liquidity to successfully navigate the extended period of uncertainty, with some $6.3 billion in cash at the end of the third quarter, ahead of a recent $2.3 billion capital raise.
The city and officials from the surrounding Alameda County did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Thursday.
Alameda County is one of six counties covered by an order from regional officials to “shelter in place,” which limits activity, travel and business functions to only the most essential, and advises people to stay home except for the most crucial reasons.
The county sheriff’s office said on Tuesday afternoon Tesla was not considered an essential business and cannot continue to operate its factory normally.
Tesla said on Thursday it would continue basic operations at the Fremont factory in compliance with the order to support vehicle and energy services and charging infrastructure.
Tesla’s sole U.S. auto factory employs more than 10,000 workers, with annualized production of slightly more than 415,000 units by the end of December 2019.
In an email to employees on Thursday, Tesla said operations at the Fremont plant will transition to “minimum basic operations” beginning on March 24.
Employees at the California and New York factories will be provided with paid leave during suspended operations, the email said.
Tesla’s Giga factory in Nevada, which employs around 7,000 people, produces battery packs for its electric vehicles and stationary storage systems.
The company’s Buffalo, New York, plant produces the company’s solar roof tiles as well as some Supercharger and energy storage components. It has more than 1,500 jobs in the city of Buffalo, the company said last month.
U.S. automakers Ford Motor Co, General Motors Co and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV, on Wednesday said they were shuttering their U.S. plants, as well as factories in Canada and Mexico, to stop the spread of coronavirus.
Reporting by Tina Bellon in New York; Additional reporting by Nichola Groom in Los Angeles; Editing by Tom Brown and Matthew Lewis
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