New emails show Tesla tried to skirt local shelter-in-place restrictions

The Fremont Police Chief was not having it and there are receipts.

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Though Tesla finally shuttered its Fremont facility last week, the road there was fraught with confusion about whether or not the company was an essential business. Nearly two weeks ago, a human resources email cited “conflicting guidance from different levels of government” in reference to county, city, Bay Area, state, and federal guidelines for which businesses could remain operational.

New emails and memos shared with Protocol between Fremont Police Chief Kimberly Petersen and several Tesla executives show no such confusion. Petersen repeatedly maintained the company was beholden to the strictest versions of shelter-in-place mandates and was not an essential business.

The receipts — Petersen covered her bases with all of her Tesla communications. Following phone calls with executives, she would memorialize what was discussed and underscore her position that the facility should not be fully operational. She also references an offer to inspect the facility which she scheduled for March 24, a day after the company officially started only running “Basic Operations.” It’s unclear if this inspection took place or what was found. On-sight Protocol interviews at the Fremont facility on March 17, however, indicated not even basic precautions were in place amid this semantic struggle.

Ventilators could be a game-changer — The documents suggest Tesla could resume operations if it started producing ventilators. Elon Musk has loosely promised he would do just that and is now in talks to do so for New York. With the company not expected to reach its target sales for the Model Y, which was moved up, re-opening for any manufacturing purposes could abate the worries of shareholders.