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Tesla Motors passes on Downey, picks NorCal

May 20, 2010 12:00:00 AM PDT
Downey city officials are outraged after Tesla announced that it would not build its all-electric car in southern California. Instead, they're choosing a city in northern California. In response to Tesla's motor company's decision, city officials of Downey say they feel betrayed and back stabbed. In fact, the city council called an emergency meeting on Thursday because they were just hours away from signing the lease on the manufacturing plant where the car company was supposed to open up.

One city official told Eyewitness News that he had to learn about it from a third party Thursday afternoon that Tesla had decided to go in another direction.

They are one of the most innovative car companies and up until Wednesday night, Palo Alto based Tesla Motors was expected to open its latest manufacturing plant in Downey. But on Thursday afternoon, company officials announced with Governor Schwarzenegger by their side that they would partner with Toyota and open their new plant in Fremont, California.

"Toyota has invested $50 million in this great company. They've shown they have confidence in Tesla and Tesla has shown they have confidence in Toyota," said Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

It's great news for Toyota, who just last month closed their Nummi plant and laid off almost 40,000 workers. But in Downey, city officials are furious.

"I feel betrayed, I feel stabbed in the back," said Downey City Councilman Mario Guerra. "I feel that this is why the American people thinks corporate America continues to be selfish."

Guerra says his city has spent thousands of man hours and lots of money negotiating this deal. He said Tesla gave the city their word last November that Downey would get the plant.

"As recently as last night, we had been working with Tesla in order to be able to sign the lease tomorrow," said Guerra.

Guerra says 20 acres of Downey studios was where such movies as "Iron Man 2" and "Terminator 3" were filmed. Tesla was going to build their newly conceived electric cars in the same studios.

"They were going to be coming into the same exact building that the Apollo castles were built. They were going to be coming in the same exact building the space shuttles were built," said Guerra.

Guerra believes the decision was based on money. Downey only had $28 million on the table, compared to Toyota's $50 million. The worst part of it all, he said, was that the city lost 4,000 potential manufacturing jobs.

"They were very complimentary this afternoon telling us what a great city we've been to work with. So far that doesn't help us," said Guerra.

On Thursday afternoon, Tesla officials said they had no intention to mislead Downey. They said that the city was a great location and that Downey city officials were well aware of the negotiations taking place with Nummi in Fremont. Downey city officials told Eyewitness News that it was simply not true.


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