Tesla Inc. plans to keep employees at its Shanghai factory working in a so-called closed loop system -- where staff are ferried to and from work and tested for COVID-19 regularly -- until mid-June, people familiar with the matter said, even as Chinese authorities move to ease wider lockdown restrictions in the city.
Thousands of the electric carmaker’s workers have been sleeping on the floor of Tesla’s factory south of Shanghai doing 12-hour shifts, six days a week, to reboot production after a weeks-long pause because of the lockdown. Tesla wants to move those workers into a dormitory and keep them in a form of closed loop until June 13 at this stage, the people said, declining to be identified because the plans are private.
Tesla is also trying to start a second shift at the factory as soon as next week so that car production can resume operating around the clock once the supply of auto parts and other components becomes smoother, the people said.
Executives are now negotiating with Shanghai authorities over accommodation for workers on the existing and planned shifts, the people said. They could be housed in temporary dorms or vacant Covid isolation centers, according to one of the people.
The company had hoped most workers could be bused from their own homes on door-to-door shuttles daily, but community-level officials vetoed the idea, saying that if people left their apartments, they wouldn’t be allowed back, the people said.
The joint ventures of state-run, Shanghai-based automaker SAIC Motor Corp. -- SAIC Volkswagen Automotive Co. and SAIC General Motors Corp. -- are also bringing in more workers to their factories, other people familiar with that situation said. SAIC staff have been working in closed loops during the lockdown, and employees haven’t been provided with an end date, according to the people.
First used during the Beijing Olympics as a way of keeping athletes and support staff separate from the wider population, closed loops, or factory bubbles, typically require workers to only go from on-site accommodation to the factory and back, and be tested regularly for Covid. They’ve been used widely in Shanghai, enabling the financial and manufacturing hub to resume some production despite the ongoing virus restrictions.
Representatives for Tesla China and SAIC Motor didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.