Tesla CEO Elon Musk boosted hopes again on Thursday that he could ride to the rescue of a threatened General Motors car plant at the center of a political storm regarding auto jobs, and GM responded, saying the Ohio factory’s fate depends on union talks in 2019.
Musk suggested in a Twitter exchange with outgoing Ohio Governor John Kasich that he would think about acquiring GM’s Lordstown small-car factory located in Warren, Ohio, which GM has signaled it could close in 2019. The decision has resulted in bipartisan anger in Washington, led by U.S. President Donald Trump.
Musk had dropped a hint in an interview with the CBS TV program “60 Minutes” on December 9 that he might be interested in purchasing one of the three North American vehicle assembly plans GM has said have no work allocated after 2019.
On Monday, Kasich tweeted at Musk, “Hey @ElonMusk. Call me. There are no better workers than Ohio workers. And Lordstown is ready for you.” Musk replied on Thursday, “Thanks, will consider next year.”
GM, however, owns the factory, and in a statement after the Musk tweet, GM spokesman Patrick Morrissey stated that the automaker “has said the plant is unallocated and the next steps are a matter of UAW-GM negotiations.”
GM and the United Auto Workers are going to negotiate new master contracts for the automaker’s U.S. operations in 2019, with a resolution likely in the fall.
The Lordstown assembly plant, which constructs GM’s slow-selling Chevrolet Cruze compact sedan, is among five plants in North America GM has marked for possible closure.
Trump has added pressure on GM to find a new vehicle for the Lordstown plant, threatening to eliminate a $7,500 federal tax credit program for electric vehicles that helps GM. That program has also helped Tesla, and both automakers have lobbied Congress for months to lift the cap on electric automobiles qualified for the full $7,500 tax credit from the current level of 200,000 vehicles.