Tesla restarted work at its Buffalo, New York Gigafactory in May, not long after resuming production at its other U.S. factories in California and Nevada, according to a company letter first reported by Buffalo Business First.
Work was on hold at the New York plant, where Tesla produces its solar roof and some car chargers, for about two months, according to the letter Tesla sent to state officials. Tesla ended most operations at the plant in mid-March after it decided its residential solar business should not be considered “essential” under the criteria set forth in New York’s shutdown order.
As of the reopening, the company told Empire State Development, New York’s state development agency, that it had 474 employees at the plant and its partner Panasonic had 398 workers there. During the shutdown, Tesla furloughed nearly 1,000 “full-time contract workers.”
Current employment levels do not meet Tesla’s agreement with the state, which requires that Tesla invest billions of dollars in New York and hire a certain number of workers in Buffalo and more throughout New York, with interim targets set for each April. In its letter to the state, Tesla said it had filed for a one-year extension on its 2020 targets due to “unexpected events” related to the coronavirus. In an April filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, Tesla said the company expected to receive the extension.
Tesla may soon drift even further from meeting its job targets. Panasonic, which works with Tesla on production at both the Nevada and New York Gigafactories, is ending its involvement in Buffalo and initially planned to remove its workers stationed there in May. Panasonic confirmed to Greentech Media that the company will still be exiting the factory but will now keep workers there through the end of June. Panasonic still expects to completely cease its work in Buffalo by the end of September.
Tesla had previously pledged to hire as many of those Panasonic workers as possible in New York, although the company did not respond to a request for comment about whether it still plans to do so.
A Panasonic spokesperson told GTM that Panasonic had hosted job fairs with other area employers but declined to comment on any potential plans for its employees to continue with Tesla. The Verge reported this week that some Panasonic employees may relocate to work at the Nevada Gigafactory and that Tesla told employees they could apply to the temp agencies the automaker uses to staff the factory.
The temporary shutdown and reopening of the New York factory received little of the attention Tesla directed toward its Fremont, California car factory. CEO Elon Musk got into a feud with local officials in California over reopening the automotive factory and resumed operations before receiving an official OK to do so. Tesla appears to have waited to resume operations in New York until manufacturing in the Buffalo region was permitted to restart.
In Q1, Tesla reported a decline in solar installations over Q1 2019 and put its 2020 guidance on hold.