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Tesla Tests Authorities’ Mettle as It Looks to Reopen California Plant

Tesla CEO Elon Musk is girding for battle with California as it moves forward with reopening its Fremont factory.

If there’s one thing Tesla  (TSLA) - Get Tesla Inc Report CEO Elon Musk is known for, it’s not backing away from a fight - and he may be in for another one if his company moves forward with plans to reopen the company's Fremont, Calif. factory despite an ongoing state-wide stay-at-home order.  

The San Francisco Chronicle reported late Wednesday that a small number of employees returned to the plant Wednesday to begin preparations to reopen some production lines between now and next week. TheStreet reported last week that Tesla was looking to bring back in a portion of its employees.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom has said that some manufacturing operations could soon be given the green light to reopen, but has not specified which industries or companies might be included. Alameda County authorities declared Tesla's factory a non-essential business in March, forcing it to close its doors by sheriff order. 

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Indeed, Musk has been an outspoken critic of stay-at-home rules to stem the spread of the coronavirus, and Tesla defied the rules for about a week until the county sheriff intervened. The plant, which employs about 10,000 workers, has reportedly been staffed by a small number of "essential workers" since mid-March.

Tesla reported first-quarter earnings last week, posting a surprising profit and saying its goal of selling 500,000 vehicles this year remains on track. It also surpassed a market-cap milestone that gives Musk a potential $700-million payout 

Shares of Tesla were up 0.18% at $784 in premarket trading on Thursday. The stock is up more than 85% year to date.