Tesla sends employees back to US from Germany before Trump travel ban

SpaceX founder Elon Musk looks on at a post-launch news conference after the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, carrying the Crew Dragon spacecraft, lifted off on an uncrewed test flight to the International Space Station from the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida, March 2, 2019.

Mike Blake | Reuters

Tesla reportedly rushed to send dozens of its employees back to the US from Germany on Thursday after President Donald Trump announced a ban on travelers to the United States from Europe for the next 30 days.

Automobilwoche first reported on this development following the travel ban’s announcement on Wednesday night. Tesla did not immediately return a request for comment.

The electric car company was in the beginning stages of building a factory in Brandenburg, outside of Berlin, with hopes to deliver vehicles made there starting in 2021. 

In late February, after a standoff with environmental protestors, Tesla obtained German courts’ approval to clear 91 hectares of forest to make way for the Berlin Gigafactory. 

The company said in a Q4 2019 earnings update that it had selected Berlin as “the right place to build vehicles for the European market due to a strong manufacturing and engineering presence in Germany.”

This week, Tesla CEO Elon Musk said that he is scouting locations in the US for even more factories, seemingly mimicking Amazon’s effort to unearth incentives and subsidies, in different states, before deciding where to build its HQ2. 

While many publicly traded companies have warned that they will miss guidance, following the spread of the novel coronavirus around the world, Tesla has not yet changed its 2020 annual or first-quarter guidance, or warned investors about any major delays to its business plans.

Tesla previously said it would “comfortably exceed” deliveries of 500,000 electric vehicles in 2020, after deliveries reached 367,500 in 2019. 

The company successfully built and began delivering cars from a new plant in Shanghai, in under one year. The COVID-19 pandemic, among other challenges, could make that performance hard for Tesla to repeat in Germany. 

Tesla shares were down nearly 13% in mid-day trading Thursday amid a historic market sell-off. 

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