‘I support Elon Musk’ — AutoNation’s Mike Jackson says US auto plants should be reopened

AutoNation’s Mike Jackson on Monday told CNBC that US auto factories should be reopened to support growing demand for vehicles as the US economy tries to restart after its shutdown due to the coronavirus.

“It is entirely appropriate for the factories to reopen. I fully support it. We need the vehicles,” said Jackson “Squawk Box”. “In fact … I would go so far as to say that I support Elon Musk. Tesla should open.”

AutoNation, the country’s largest car dealership chain, sells used Tesla vehicles.

Jackson, executive chairman the AutoNation Board of Directors and Interim CEO, Tesk CEO Musk, who pushes back health officials in Alameda County, California, has frequently criticized Musk for wanting to restart production at Fremont’s main county auto plant.

Dr. Erica Pan, Acting County Public Health Officer, said health orders to contain a Covid-19 outbreak in the region remain in effect. She said the electric vehicle maker does not have a “green light” to resume operations.

Tesla filed a lawsuit against Alameda County on Saturday, arguing that its rules contradict California state policy on business closings. The company has released a list of safety protocols it will implement while working during the pandemic.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin also told CNBC on Monday that he agreed with Musk’s wish to resume operations. “It is one of California’s largest employers and manufacturers, and California should prioritize everything they need to do to resolve these health issues so that it can open quickly and safely.” , said Mnuchin on “Squawk on the Street”.

Ford, General Motors and Fiat Chrysler plan to restart production in the manufacturing plants on May 18. Scott Haggerty, supervisor for the Fremont district in Alameda county, said on Saturday. The New York Times that county and Tesla leaders were in talks on a plan to restart the plant on May 18 as well.

Jackson, who is back in the post of CEO of Cheryl Miller as she takes leave for health reasons, said there was a growing demand for vehicles in the United States, following a significant slowdown brought on by pandemic lock orders.

AutoNation sales were down about 50%, Jackson said, but in the last 10 days of April, they were down only 25%.

“Now, I never thought I would celebrate just a 25% drop, but it could have gone the other way. I am comfortable here today and declare that the car recovery is underway”, did he declare.

Jackson said he believed there were a few factors behind the surge: pent-up demand, favorable funding and “need for personal space” in response to concerns about the virus.

Jackson added that he believed the United States should continue to take steps to ease trade restrictions related to coronaviruses, saying the restrictions had largely succeeded in keeping the country’s health system “from being overwhelmed”.

“This objective was achieved overall. It was not to fall into place as long as there is no longer a single crown case,” said Jackson. “Don’t let the health care system be overwhelmed, so now that it hasn’t, and we paid a high price for this demand from America, it’s time to reopen it safely and gradually America “.

– CNBC’s Lora Kolodny and Jessica Bursztynsky contributed to this report.

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