Tesla wants to double the production capacity of its assembly plant outside Berlin to one million electric vehicles per year, a move that would make it Europe’s largest car plant at a time when German automakers are struggling to keep pace with the transition to electric vehicles.
Since the start of production in Grünheide 16 months ago, Tesla has turned the German car landscape upside down. In the first half of this year, it eclipsed Volkswagen in sales of electric vehicles for the first time.
If the expansion, described in thousands of pages on Wednesday, receives approval from local officials, production from the plant will exceed that of Volkswagen’s heritage-listed Wolfsburg plant, which was built in the 1930s and has remained the largest in Europe, capable of rolling out 815,000 cars a year.
Volkswagen and other German automakers, including BMW and Mercedes-Benz, have spent years fumbling with their attempts to produce electric cars that could compete with Tesla in terms of price and popularity. According to the European Automobile Manufacturers’ Association, new electric car registrations rose by more than 66 percent year-on-year in June across the continent.
As of March 2022, Tesla’s German factory produces about 5,000 Model Y SUVs each week – a rate that is about half of its current capacity, which is still increasing. The company said it would like to add capacity to build other models at the plant, but did not specify which ones. It also aims to double its battery cell production, to a storage capacity of 100 gigawatt hours per year, the expansion documents show.
The number of employees would rise to 22,500, up from 10,000 now, the company told residents Tuesday at a town hall-style event near the plant. Dozens of jobs are advertised on the company’s website, most of them in manufacturing, indicating that the company still has vacancies at its current plant.
Dirk Schulze, the regional head of the trade union IG Metall, which employs 2.3 million people nationwide, welcomed the announcement of more jobs in the economically weak region. But he advocated better working conditions for those at work.
“Despite the high absenteeism rate, staff cuts are being made on a significant scale,” said Mr Schulze. “But the production targets are not being adjusted downwards, so the pressure on the remaining colleagues is increasing.”
IG Metall is frustrated with the inability to attract enough workers to create a collective bargaining agreement for workers at the plant. Tesla CEO Elon Musk has been blunt about his opposition to unions.
Local residents and organizations have one month to review the plans and to submit any concerns to the authorities. A public hearing will take place in October.
Tesla has faced resistance from residents in the area since the installation was first proposed in 2019; they are afraid that the existing factory will be an attack on the groundwater. The expansion plans include the construction of a water treatment plant, which will allow the plant to recycle water rather than expand resource use.