Tesla Shanghai workers can leave the factory for first time in weeks – Orange County Register

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Thousands of Tesla Inc. workers in Shanghai will be able to return to their homes from Friday, exiting a factory bubble set up to maintain operations during the city’s recent Covid-19 lockdown as the carmaker looks to return to a normal production schedule in China.

Tesla has told workers, who have been living in makeshift accommodation to keep output going at the sprawling plant, that they can start leaving from Friday when their shifts end, according to people familiar with the matter, who asked not to be identified because the information isn’t public.

The plan is in line with a June 10 target to end the so-called closed-loop system, where staff are kept in a bubble away from the wider public and tested for Covid-19 regularly. Elon Musk’s Tesla employs more than 10,000 people at the Shanghai factory, which produces Model 3 and Model Y vehicles for the Chinese market as well as for exports.

A Shanghai-based Tesla representative didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.

Tesla started the closed loop in April following a three-week production halt as authorities put Shanghai into lockdown to defuse an omicron outbreak. With cases now fading, the Chinese financial center has eased some curbs to allow freer movement in areas deemed low risk, meaning the system for workers adopted by Tesla and others, including Volkswagen AG, is less necessary.

The first batch of Tesla workers that entered the closed loop around mid-April can take four days off before returning on June 15, one of the people said. The employees have been housed in disused factories and an old military camp, with day-shift and night-shift workers sharing beds in makeshift dorms.

Prior to the production halt on March 28, the plant ran on three shifts covering 24 hours, seven days a week. Workers were on 12-hour daily duty for four days and then had two days off. Tesla plans to restore that schedule from Monday, bringing back staff from outside the bubble to fill in for the first shifters, the people said. All will be able to commute in and out each day, they said.

In the first month under the closed loop, the Shanghai factory operated on a single 12-hour shift for six days with one day off. That was ramped up to double shifts later in May, the people said.

The system helped Tesla increase production at the plant to 33,544 cars in May from 10,757 in April, according to China Passenger Car Association data released Thursday. Still, that was only half of its normal monthly output: prior to Covid, the factory produced about 2,100 cars a day.

China car sales as a whole plunged the most in two years in April as lockdowns in auto-industry hubs plagued production and kept buyers out of showrooms. Not a single car was sold in Shanghai that month.

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