Tesla expansion means jobs boom for Fremont

The Fremont City Council this week approved a vast expansion of Tesla’s operations in Fremont, which could lead the plant to top the peak employment of the former NUMMI auto plant on the same site.

Tesla’s current factory is on the site of the old New United Motor Manufacturing Inc., or NUMMI, a joint venture of General Motors and Toyota Motor. The NUMMI plant at various times produced the Chevrolet Nova, Geo Prizm, Chevrolet Prizm, Hilux,Toyota Voltz, Pontiac Vibe, Toyota Corolla and Toyota Tacoma.

“Tesla has announced a new vehicle model, the Model 3, and has a need to expand their current facility,” according to a city staff report.

Yet the approval marks more than a major new project for Fremont. It also represents a dramatic turnaround for the city.

Fremont was in tough shape after the shutdown of the NUMMI auto factory in 2010 and the closure of the Solyndra solar startup in 2011. Those back-to-back economic setbacks erased 5,800 jobs.

When NUMMI closed in 2010, it had 4,700 workers. Even worse, the stunning collapse and bankruptcy of Solyndra wiped out 1,100 more jobs. No viable replacements were in view for either plant. At its peak level of employment in 1979, when it was operated by General Motors, the Fremont auto factory complex employed 6,800.

Palo Alto-based Tesla currently employs about 6,200 people in its Fremont auto factory. The existing complex totals 5.3 million square feet of production and office space.  The larger Tesla factory is expected to bring 3,100 new jobs to the East Bay and would total 4.6 million square feet. A time frame for the expansion wasn’t disclosed in Tesla’s filings with Fremont.

The plant could employ at least 9,300 workers after the expansion is complete. That would be more than NUMMI and Solyndra combined at their peaks.

What’s more, it’s clear that a huge rebound has occurred in the East Bay’s manufacturing base in the years since the shutdown of NUMMI.

After GM and Toyota had closed their joint venture auto factory, the East Bay had 76,600 manufacturing jobs — the lowest number documented in official state labor records that date back to 1990.

Since those dark days in April 2010, East Bay factory operators have added 10,200 manufacturing jobs, an average of 1,700 jobs a year over the six-year period. The East Bay now has 86,800 manufacturing jobs, according to the state Employment Development Department.

All told, the project would add square footage equivalent in size to three major regional shopping centers the size of Sunvalley Mall in Concord or Valley Fair in San Jose.

“In 2015, Tesla produced 50,580 new vehicles,” the city report stated. “Build out of the master plan would increase production to 500,000 new vehicles per year.”


Photo: The Tesla factory in Fremont, Calif., in January 2016. (LiPo Ching/Bay Area News Group)


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  • spec9

    Go, Tesla, GO!

    • Ichi San


    • aamericannovice

      I should have bought Tesla stocks at fourty bucks instead of fifty bucks. I’m a failure! LOL.

  • marketbuy

    And then a big earthquake comes along. What is TSLA doing to mitigate?

    • aamericannovice

      Offer a free case of milk shake for every new Tesla sale in California.

  • Steen Brüel

    Hmmm, to bad it´s the “wrong jobs”, mr. pres elect will do everything he can to close it down in order to follow his carbon master plan. ZEV´s are dangerously un-polluting. Just joking, hopefully he and his fellow carbon-heads will be able to see the light.

  • Kenneth_Brown

    A quick look at the cost of living in the Fremont area will show how unwise it was for Tesla Motors to site their production facility there. It’s a good thing that the Model 3 production line will be automated to the greatest extent possible although that means that Tesla Motors will employ fewer people and there will be fewer human hours on each vehicle compared to other automakers who have been constrained the the UAW when it comes to implementing more automation. In an area where a one bedroom apartment can cost $3,000/month ($36,000/year of take home pay), employees can’t survive at $25-$35/hour.

    Even though the City of Fremont has given their approval for Tesla Motors to expand their facility, the California Air Resources Board has restricted the plant to 200K cars annually due to emissions. Tesla Motors may be required to install more scrubbers and air filtration before they are allowed to ramp up to the 500K pace they keep on about.

    The competition will be building their products in much less expensive areas of the US and much closer to their feed-in suppliers saving even more. If Chevy does lose $9k on each Bolt, how will Tesla Motors be able to sell the Model 3 at a profit with more features? That’s too large a gap to explain away considering that Chevy already has the plants and equipment paid for.

    • Cheap & Nothing Wasted

      The plant was built by GM & opened in 1961. It’s long been paid for.
      Tesla’s biggest expense are the batteries & they’re being made both in Fremont & soon in a huge plant outside of Reno, about 250 miles away.
      The electric motors are made in the factory.

      The body, wheels & chassis are aluminum, with a titanium plate protecting the underside. All of those raw materials are produced on the West Coast, originally for the aircraft industry.
      There is some specialized high strength steel reinforcing the body at certain points.
      So my guess is, that it’s competitive to make it there & face it, not all of the Bay Area is expensive, as much of Oakland is cheap.

      • Kenneth_Brown

        The Model 3 will be made of sheet steel instead of aluminum to lower the cost. The battery plant is 250 miles AND one mountain range away. There hasn’t been any word from Panasonic (not Elon) about when cell production will begin. At the last big press event held at the Gigafactory, most of it was just a shell. There are many parts that are still coming from the MI area such as brakes, electrics and so on. California is an expensive state for manufacturing. I closed my plant in 2008. It’s not just taxes and fees but a huge amount of overlapping regulatory red tape to fight through.

        I highly doubt that Tesla Motors was just given the plant and machinery so it is not paid for. Ford, GM, Toyota, Honda and other major brands have been manufacturing cars for decades and have large numbers of very large pieces of machinery that Tesla Motors has been having to buy to build their production capacity. The biggest advantage Tesla Motors has right now is its workers are not UAW employees. Whether that balances out their disadvantages is hard to tell, but if a majority of the assembly workers decide to organize, the cost of labor will rise and be controlled by an outside agency.

        The reason parts of Oakland are less expensive, on average, is the quality of the neighborhoods. They are not areas where somebody making a middle class wage is going to want to live.

        • Cheap & Nothing Wasted

          Tesla paid just $17 million for the plant & machinery, a huge discount, since it was worthless to NUMMI.
          California is booming, no matter how high cost it is.
          As for Oakland, it will get gentrified over the next few years as the tech workers decide that saving money is worth the risks of being early adopters of a once bad neighborhood.

        • aamericannovice

          My puppies just want a big yard to roam around in.