Tesla gets green light to start mega-factory near Berlin

(Berlin) Relief for Tesla: the American manufacturer received final approval on Friday to launch production of electric vehicles in its first European “mega-factory”, near Berlin, after many administrative vicissitudes.

Updated March 4

The long-awaited authorization was notified by the authorities of Brandenburg, the neighboring region of Berlin.

It puts an end to an administrative and judicial soap opera that delayed the start of the factory located south of the capital, in Grünheide, initially planned for the summer of 2021.

Indeed, Tesla lacked a definitive building permit, the group having made the bet to launch the work on the basis of provisional authorizations.

Elon Musk’s first “gigafactory” on the European continent covers 300 hectares. Eventually, 500,000 vehicles – the Tesla Model Y, 100% electric SUVs – should roll off the lines each year.

The manufacturer, which manufactured nearly a million cars last year, is counting on this new site to increase its production capacity and meet the growing demand “which is currently reflected in delays of 5 to 6 months for Y models”, recently observed the analysts of the Wedbush company.

The arrival, in the country of Volkswagen and Mercedes, of their main rival in the race for the electric car promises to be an electric shock for the German automobile industry.

Protected lizards

Herbert Diess, the boss of Volkswagen who does not hide his fascination with Tesla, recently worried that the American could manufacture a car in Grünheide in ten hours, when the main electrical plant of the German giant is still going there. over 30 hours.

It is probably no coincidence that Volkswagen formalized on Friday an investment of two billion euros to build a new electric car factory near its historic headquarters in Wolfsburg, with opening scheduled for 2026.

“The start of Tesla production is a turning point for Germany,” said automotive expert Ferdinand Dudenhöffer.

Located on the territory of the former East Germany, the Tesla factory is “good news for the German economy”, welcomed the German Chamber of Commerce and Industry (DIHK). “In less than three years, a multi-billion euro investment project was launched and built.”

However, the construction site had to face the opposition of certain associations, worried about the ecological impact of the site.

The courts have repeatedly ordered the suspension of work, in particular to analyze the impact on the natural habitat of protected species of lizards and snakes.

The water consumption of the future factory is also in question: it is located in localities already in tension, affected in the last three years by summer droughts.

These concerns delayed the issuance of the final permit. The administrative authorities had to scrupulously study the entire file, “a colossal task”, they commented on Friday when presenting the authorization which has no less than 400 pages.

Especially since Tesla has amended its application for approval several times, adding to the project the upcoming construction of a giant battery factory.

The criticisms were swept away by Elon Musk, who regularly came to supervise the site. If the competition is exacerbated on the disputed niche of the electric car, Tesla continues to dominate this market and its production system including the control of the software and the battery system sets the benchmark.

works council

The Berlin factory has already started testing “the manufacture of a limited number” of cars. Serial production is expected to start soon.

The American group will still have to adapt to the local context: it has already had to accept – reluctantly – the establishment of a works council, a central player in the German union model of “co-management”, which gives many decision-making powers to employees.

The elections of representatives, which were held at the end of February, however, allowed the “Gigavoice” list, close to the management, to win.

The factory currently employs between 2,500 and 3,000 workers, according to union sources. It’s basically executives at this point.

It should eventually have 12,000 people, according to the German press, a figure not confirmed by Tesla.

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