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Tesla bringing jobs to Lathrop
Electric car firm working on manufacturing plant
Aerial view of the new Tesla manufacturing facility in Lathrop. - photo by Photo Contributed


• FIRM: Tesla Motors Inc.

• UNITS SOLD: More than 25,000 globally in 2013

• STOCK PRICE: $204.38 a share at closing on Monday

It’s a business at the forefront of the movement towards fossil fuel-free transportation. 

And it’s coming to Lathrop. 

The city confirmed on Monday that Tesla Motors – the Palo Alto-based company responsible for a direct manufacturer-to-buyer approach to car sales and a reimagining of what electric cars can be – has taken out permits and started renovations on the 431,000-square-foot vacant Daimler-Chrysler distribution facility that faces Interstate 5. 

According to City Manager Steve Salvatore, the permits were for “manufacturing modifications” and that work has already begun on overhauling the existing facility. 

Information about the number of jobs that the facility would create and exactly which part of the manufacturing process – the company makes vehicles as well as electric vehicle powertrain components for other automotive companies – would be in Lathrop there was not immediately available through a communications agent for the company. 

Daimler Chrysler’s Mopar distribution facility – which sent Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep and Ram and at that time Mercedes Benz components to warehouses, parts distributors and auto dealerships around the West Coast – was one of the anchor components of the Crossroads Commerce Center. The building has sat vacant since 2009 when Chrysler combined its small parts distribution in Los Angeles and Portland. 

Tesla already has a strong track record with taking over existing facilities and turning them around. 

Not long after the New United Motors plant in Fremont, also known as NUMMI, closed its doors in 2010, Toyota – one of the original tenants of the plant that had also at one time included General Motors – announced that they would be working with Tesla on electric vehicle development. 

By the end of the year and within months of the plant’s closure, the plant had been renamed to reflect the new ownership. Company CEO Elon Musk, who rattled California’s political chains when he came up with a futuristic way of transporting people from Northern to Southern California that dusted the proposed high-speed rail system, announced then that the company’s flagship Tesla S would be built at the facility. 

Tesla Motors currently produces two vehicles — the Tesla Roadster sports car and the Tesla Model luxury sedan.

The firm in the first quarter of 2013 posted its first profits since being launched in 2003.

The 29-acre complex at 18260 Harlan Road where Tesla is locating can accommodate a 125,000-square-foot expansion.

Chrysler’s Mopar parts division originally planned on 225 people for the Lathrop facility when it opened in 2001. That’s because the plan at the time was to merge Chrysler with Mercedes Benz. But when that union went south, the distribution center that is large enough to accommodate nine football fields became surplus capacity. Chrysler never utilized more than 50 percent of the space. There were 45 employees at Lathrop when the distribution center closed in 2009.