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Is Tesla planning another electric car factory in California?

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Is Tesla going to be manufacturing more cars or car parts at a new facility?

The electric car company won't comment specifically, but city officials in tiny Lathrop, Calif., say work is underway converting a 431,000-square-foot facility that once housed a Chrysler-Daimler distribution center into a Tesla factory.

Lathrop City Manager Steve Salvatore, confirming the arrival of Tesla in his small town of 19,000, said the company had indicated it will be hiring 100 to 125 workers, to start, and is likely to hire more.

"We're very excited about it," Salvatore said. "We've been working with the Tesla Group for the last several months, and now they've pulled the trigger."

Salvatore said Tesla had not told him exactly what it would do with the facility -- "I believe it's car-related," he said -- but that work being done at the location, which has been vacant since 2009, suggests that manufacturing, not warehousing or distribution, will take place there.

"That means higher-paying jobs," Salvatore said.

Lathrop sits on Interstate 5 some 75 miles east of San Francisco and 52 miles from the factory in Fremont, Calif., where Tesla currently builds its electric cars.

It appears that Lathrop will not be the site of a massive battery plant for which Tesla is said to be scouting locations.

Published reports indicate Tesla plans to spend $4 billion to $5 billion for a battery factory that will employ 6,500 workers. Tesla is looking at 500- to 1,000-acre sites in Arizona, Nevada, New Mexico and Texas.

Tesla representatives declined to offer details of its Lathrop move but said in a statement, "Tesla is continuing to invest and create jobs in California as part of our ongoing infrastructure expansion. In the last two months, we have signed leases for more than 625,000 square feet of California real estate, independent of sales and service centers. These recent investments reinforce our commitment to California and will help us continue to bring compelling electric vehicles to market at affordable prices"

Salvatore said his city was ready for whatever Tesla's got. The small town has entitlements to build an additional 18,000 homes within spitting distance of the new Tesla facility.

"We have huge tracts of land that are ready for housing and retail," he said. "In terms of location and Bay Area access, it's perfect."

This isn't be the first time Tesla has moved its electric car-making operations to a former gasoline car facility. Its main Fremont plant was previously a joint operation of Toyota and General Motors.

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Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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