June 18, 2020 / 5:45 PM / 21 days ago

Tesla wants to start building a new U.S. vehicle plant this summer

FILE PHOTO: The Tesla factory is seen in Fremont, California, U.S. June 22, 2018. REUTERS/Stephen Lam

DETROIT (Reuters) - Electric vehicle maker Tesla Inc (TSLA.O) wants to start building a large vehicle assembly plant in the southwestern United States as early as the third quarter of this year, the company told Texas officials in documents made public this week.

But the company is still pitting Texas and Oklahoma against each other in an effort to secure tax breaks, the documents show. The plant would build Tesla’s electric pickup truck and Model Y SUV, according to reports.

Tesla told officials in Travis County, Texas, the automaker wants to invest about $1 billion to build a 4 million to 5 million square foot vehicle assembly plant employing 5,000 people on the grounds of what is now a cement operation near Austin. But it needs tax breaks to make the site competitive with an alternative location in Oklahoma, according to documents filed with Texas officials.

The Austin-American Statesman reported details of the company’s filings.

Tesla officials could not immediately be reached for comment, but Tesla Chief Executive Elon Musk previously hinted about a Texas plant, and Texas Governor Greg Abbott has spoken with Musk about the possibility.

Oklahoma’s Secretary of Commerce Sean Kouplen said Tulsa remains in the hunt for the plant.

“We’ve pulled together a compelling, well-balanced and, more importantly, a responsible performance-based incentives package to attract Tesla to Oklahoma,” he said in a Thursday statement.

Tesla’s sole U.S. vehicle assembly plant in Fremont, California, covers 5.3 million square feet - a large plant, but not large enough for the growing company. Tesla has had to build cars under a tent adjacent to the plant.

Musk clashed with California officials after Alameda county officials ordered the Fremont factory to halt production and comply with coronavirus stay-at-home orders that took effect in March. He threatened to move future operations to Texas or Nevada. The California plant has since reopened.

Reporting By Joe White, additional reporting by Andrea Shalal in Washington and Ben Klayman in Detroit; Editing by Nick Zieminski, Tom Brown and Aurora Ellis

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