Tesla seeks workers for ex-Chrysler property in Calif.

LOS ANGELES (Bloomberg) -- Tesla Motors Inc. has leased an idled parts-distribution center in rural California where it plans to hire engineers and technicians as the maker of luxury electric cars expands operations.

The carmaker led by Elon Musk has been granted building permits to modify a 431,000-square-foot center in Lathrop, Calif., said Steve Salvatore, the city’s manager, in a phone interview Tuesday. While a company spokeswoman declined to discuss details of the project, Tesla’s Web site shows openings for 32 positions at the facility in northern California.

“They’ve pulled building permits for building modifications and I believe some sort of manufacturing equipment is being installed,” Salvatore said. He declined to provide additional details.

Tesla is hiring for the plant in Lathrop, previously a parts-distribution center used by Chrysler’s Mopar unit, as the carmaker assesses sites in four western U.S. states for a battery “gigafactory” to supply its vehicles. Musk has said the plant he envisions, which will also make battery packs to store power from rooftop solar panels, will require as much as $5 billion to build and will eventually employ as many as 6,500 people.

The company has said Arizona, Nevada, New Mexico and Texas are all potential locations for its battery plant. Lathrop is about an hour east of both Tesla’s headquarters in Palo Alto and its assembly plant in Fremont.

“Tesla is continuing to invest and create jobs in California as part of our ongoing infrastructure expansion,” the company said in an e-mailed statement.

“In the last two months, we have signed leases for more than 625,000 square feet of Californian real estate, independent of sales and service centers,” the carmaker said. “These recent investments reinforce our commitment to California and will help us continue to bring compelling electric vehicles to market at affordable prices.”

Tesla’s plan to use the Lathrop site was reported earlier by the Manteca Bulletin.

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