Elon Musk announced during a shareholder meeting on Thursday that Tesla will move its headquarters from Silicon Valley to Texas, weeks after the governor boasted that the billionaire likes the state’s “social policies.”
Texas last month enacted a restrictive new abortion law that bans the procedure in pregnancies that are more than six weeks and and deputizes private citizens to sue anyone who assists in providing one.
In reaction to the law, another billionaire, Salesforce’s Marc Benioff, publicly offered to relocate any Texas employees who are concerned about access to reproductive care.
Musk went in the opposite direction.
“I’m excited to announce that we’re moving our headquarters to Austin, Texas,” the world’s richest person said during the shareholder meeting.
The electric car maker is currently headquartered in Palo Alto, California. Tesla has already established a factory in Austin, and much of the business of Musk’s other main venture, SpaceX, happens in the Lone Star State, as well.
“To be clear we will be continuing to expand our activities in California,” he said of the company’s Fremont factory, portraying the relocation as an economic decision.
“It’s tough for people to afford houses, and people have to come in from far away… There’s a limit to how big you can scale in the Bay Area.”
Musk has both an established footprint in Texas and a well-documented dislike for California laws and mores. He himself moved to Austin from Los Angeles last year.
At the start of the coronavirus pandemic, he called the Golden State’s preventative measures “fascist” on a Tesla earnings call. In a tweet, he wrote that “the coronavirus panic is dumb.” He then opened Tesla’s factory in defiance of local restrictions, and hundreds of new infections followed.
Following Texas’ enactment of the abortion ban—which a federal judge issued a preliminary injunction against this week—Texas Gov. Greg Abbott claimed in a TV interview that he counted Musk as an ally.
“Elon consistently tells me that he likes the social policies in the state,” he said.
Amid blowback, Musk released a cryptic statement: “In general, I believe government should rarely impose its will upon the people, and, when doing so, should aspire to maximize their cumulative happiness. That said, I would prefer to stay out of politics.”
Tuesday’s shareholder meeting came on the heels of good news for Tesla, which announced this week that it had delivered 241,300 electric vehicles in the third-quarter of the year, exceeding its projections.
Talking about the skyrocketing deliveries, Musk told shareholders, “I almost got arrested at one point for claiming that we’d do 5,000 a week.” Then he broke into a fake evil laugh.
Earlier this week, a federal jury in San Francisco awarded $136.9 million to a former Tesla contractor, Owen Diaz, who alleged that he was subjected to rampant racism at the carmaker.
“The jury knew that this is not just for me; this verdict is for everybody that works at Tesla,” Diaz told The Daily Beast. “This is their way of putting Elon Musk on notice.”