After getting caught up with German government red tape, US electronic car maker Tesla finally got approval from the authorities on March 4, opening the way for production to start soon at the company’s “gigafactory” in the outskirts of Berlin.
Officials from the state of Brandenburg, in which the factory is located, have given their final acceptance for the company’s initial production facility in Europe.
The green light came “a huge day for Brandenburg, and a huge leap towards the future,” State head Dietmar Woidke told a press conference, noting that approving the project was a “mammoth job.”
Brandenburg was once part of communist eastern Germany and is hoping to gain a boost in employment thanks to the new plant and has established it as a center for the manufacture of electric vehicles.
“The future is thrilling!” Tesla CEO Elon Musk tweeted in the German language.
On March 4, German automobile giant Volkswagen announced a EUR2 billion ($2.2 billion) investment in a custom-built electric plant that it owns, which is scheduled to begin construction on its primary Wolfsburg site by the beginning of 2023.
Tesla put its hopes on the Volkswagen’s lawn when it made its announcement to build a factory in Gruenheide located to the southwest of Berlin to the southeast of Berlin, with a grand celebration in November of 2019.
The Tesla plant is expected to manufacture 500,000 vehicles per year, was subject to an expedited approval process, and was permitted to begin construction before receiving the final planning approval.
However, the US manufacturing company’s initial momentum was shattered due to several administrative and legal problems triggered by locals who were angry and concerned about the impact on the facility’s environment.
Alongside national environmental organizations, Nabu, and the national environmental groups Nabu Gruene Liga, residents did everything to stand in Tesla’s plans by organizing protests, making legal appeals, and writing letters to the editor.
In 2020, the courts had ordered Tesla to cease work at the site in response to an application by local organizations worried about the destruction of the ecosystem of endangered lizards and snakes.
The massive requirement for water was an issue for the residents living in an area plagued by droughts in summer for the past three years.
The local government is still fighting another legal challenge about its plans to pump more water at the plant.
Due to pressure from environmentalists, authorities were cautious to study the matter thoroughly, slowing the process of obtaining planning approval.
The setbacks also offered Tesla an opportunity to alter its plan, including the battery plant adjacent to the main factory.
Concerns about the building have been dismissed by Tesla’s superstar CEO Musk, who was determined to gain the trust of locals by organizing a country fair on the grounds of the factory in October.
If the approval for the plant had not been granted, the cost of dismantling the work done already would have been borne by Tesla.
The factory’s production should start as soon as possible, with Tesla already producing the “limited” amount of cars as part of an experiment, the Tesla spokesperson confirmed to AFP.
Tesla’s next task is finding workers as businesses in Germany have to contend with shortages of skilled workers.
What workers at the plant have been exposed the need for an assembly committee, in opposition to the US automaker’s protests.
The shop-floor structure is typical to German industries and gives employees a particular influence in the corporate decision-making process.
However, the elections to the council, which were held in the middle of the month, were won by representatives from “Gigavoice,” which is more in line with management.
As per union sources, between 2,500 and 3,000 workers work at the plant, mostly more senior employees.
At some point, the workforce at the multi-billion-euro facility could increase to 12,000, according to local news reports, but the figures have not been verified by Tesla.
According to analysts at the investment firm Wedbush, the plant’s opening represents a significant leap forward for the electric car maker that “will reduce the bottlenecks in production for Tesla across the globe” and increase production.