FREMONT (KCBS) – The reopening of the former NUMMI auto plant in Fremont under the auspices of Tesla Motors marks an important milestone for California manufacturing and for the electric car maker, company officials said.

“This plant was really the one that we always hoped we could get, but really didn’t think we could ever afford,” said Tesla CEO Elon Musk, beaming next to a burgundy prototype of the Model S sedan.

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KCBS’ Mike Colgan:

Musk formally pulled back the curtain Wednesday on the site where the Model S will be mass produced. The company expects the first car to roll off the assembly line in mid-2012.

For a long time, it seemed “there’s no way that a little company like Tesla could get a thing like this,” Musk said.

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Tesla is devoting about one-fifth of the 5.5 million-square foot facility to assembling the Model S sedan, proof – according to Senator Dianne Feinstein – that the Bay Area economy can still sustain blue collar jobs.

“We’re here to unveil the Tesla factory and celebrate the fact that 2010 marks a new beginning for manufacturing in Fremont,” she said.

Once production ramps up, the plant will churn out about 7,000 the first year and then 20,000 the following year, Musk said.

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