Tesla overtakes Toyota as California’s largest auto employer

Posted on 22 May 2014 by Tim Brown

Electric car-maker Tesla has cemented itself as California's largest automotive employer announcing this week that the company now employs 6,000 staff in the state.

And, according to Tesla spokesman Simon Sproule, Tesla looks to add at least a further 500 staff by the end of this year.

Led by billionaire CEO Elon Musk, Tesla is considered a rare manufacturing oddity for choosing California as its base as the state has relatively high labour and energy costs and tough environmental regulations regarding industrial facilities. Texas and a number of other states, by comparison, are attracting manufacturers with promises of lower taxes and less regulation.

The title of state’s largest car-maker was previously held by Japanese firm Toyota who currently employs 5,300 people in California.

However, that figure is set to dwindle as Toyota, the world’s largest auto-maker, prepares to move its US headquarters to Texas by 2017.

The Japanese auto giant announced earlier this month that it will phase out an agreement announced in 2010 with Tesla Motors for Tesla to deliver battery packs for electric cars. Instead, Toyota will focus on hydrogen fuel cells. Toyota invested $50m in Tesla and there has been general development work going on between the companies but the lynchpin was the supply agreement.

Part of the decision has to do with sales. Toyota’s all-electric RAV-4 has not sold well. “They can’t even give these cars away,” John O’Dell , an analyst for Edmunds.com, told the New York Times. Toyota’s plug-in Prius, which uses lithium batteries, has also not been racking up great sales.