Berlin’s Tesla factory hits activists, bureaucracy and lizards

Grünheide, Germany-A vast light gray factory with a dedicated exit on the Autobahn surrounded by pine forests in eastern Berlin should now be producing a new shiny Tesla. Instead, it represented what would happen if Silicon Valley ambitions clashed with German procedures.

According to local authorities, the $ 7 billion plant that supplies the fast-growing European electric vehicle market is at least six months behind. Also, Tesla could be farther away from car production in Germany, as construction of an adjacent factory to supply batteries has just begun. Tesla declined to comment.

Tesla’s first major assembly plant in Europe Strong support from local political leaders has been hampered by legal challenges from environmental groups, delays in the approval process by local and national agencies, and revisions to the automaker’s own plans. It was. Tesla also needs to find a new home for the current residents of the site: lizard seeds, and the types of snakes that like to eat it.

If the start date is off, it can be costly for Tesla.It buys time for competing manufacturers like Volkswagen, Mercedes-Benz And Renault We are trying to establish our own expanding lineup of electric vehicles.

The Tesla Model 3 is the company’s import from China or the United States into Europe and is the best-selling electric vehicle on the continent. However, Volkswagen’s electric models, such as the ID.3 hatchback and ID.4 sports utility vehicle announced last year, will be sold in total, according to Matthias Schmidt, an independent analyst in Berlin who is tracking the sale of electric vehicles in Europe. The number of vehicles exceeds that of Tesla.

“Currently, the European market is completely hot,” Schmidt said. “Undoubtedly, it’s an opportunity missed for Tesla and an opportunity for European manufacturers.”

The history of American carmakers jumping across the Atlantic to find useful homes in Europe is short. Dealing with the awkward trade unions and the difficulty of reading the tastes of local car buyers has made Europe a money hole for foreign car makers.

In 2017, General Motors sold its European Opel and Vauxhall operations to a company now known as Stellantis, after decades of loss. Ford of Europe struggled to prevent a decline in market share, which was only 4% in May in the European Union. Even Toyota, which accounts for 6% of the European market, could not match its popularity in Asia and the United States.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk apparently chose Germany as the company’s third major assembly plant, partly because he wanted to leverage the engineering and manufacturing expertise that enabled Mercedes. -Mercedes-Benz, Audi and BMW dominate the global market for luxury cars. Last year he wore a black vest, a white shirt, a wide-brimmed hat and a traditional outfit. German Journeyman Builder, For a celebration to commemorate the completion of the factory girder structure.

Getting up masked a more fundamental conflict of culture at work.

Rolf Lindemann, County Commissioner of Oder-Spree, where the factory is located, said: “On the other side, there is a German approach of thinking things to the conclusion, checking the results and trying to minimize the risk, that is, a deep analysis of the whole.”

For Tesla, which has a long history of overly optimistic timelines, this delay is nothing new. Self-driving, electric long-distance trucks, rocket launches.

But Mr. Musk may have gained more German culture than he negotiated. Germany is one of the few people who lives about 6 miles from the factory and believes it can still be stopped before producing the first car, of the 61-year-old former union organizer Manuela Heuer. It is a country of impeccable environmental activists like. That may be unrealistic, given that the factory appears to be nearing completion. Workers finish the exterior and install machines inside.

“When the second wealthiest man in the world appears, they spread the red carpet and give him everything he wants,” said Heuer, who was charged with trespassing the site. (The accusation was withdrawn.) “It’s really a crime not only for the environment, but also for the inhabitants here.”

Heuer, a member of a small civic group overseeing the Tesla project, is a fierce letter writer who speaks at project hearings, sends letters to local officials, and calls the police every time she sees them. Something on the scene that she considers to be a violation of local clean water laws or other ordinances.

Two other groups, the Brandenburg Conservation Federation and the Green League, known as NABU, have come to court to force Tesla to relocate a population of bright green and gray sand lizards, about 10 inches long. .. There are some sandy soils at the site, and some smooth adders that are 30 inches long. Both species are considered endangered under German and European law.

Snakes prey on lizards, complicating operations that are supposed to be completed by the end of summer. Environmentalists say the lizards need to be moved first so that they can adapt to their new habitat and, once their predators arrive, have a chance to fight to survive.

Environmental groups trying to sue Tesla say they don’t expect to be able to stop the project. However, they want to prevent Tesla from cutting corners, and so far the company has succeeded in reducing the number of trees allowed to be logged.

“Not everything can be done at Tesla’s speed,” said Christiane Schroeder, regional director of NABU.

Tesla did not yet have to take seriously the strict German trade unions and the laws that support them. Birgit Dice, leader of the regional division of the IG Metall Union, which represents German car workers, said in an email that how much he wants to organize in the end is “employee-dependent.” “If they want to organize for good working conditions and promote wage contracts, we support them.”

Political leaders in the region stand firmly on Tesla’s side. They point to the 10,000+ jobs that Tesla expects to create, as well as thousands of additional jobs at suppliers, nearby retailers, and other local businesses.

Jörg Steinbach, Brandenburg’s Minister of Economic Affairs, helped Tesla convince Tesla to build a factory in Grünheide and bet his political future on the success of the project. Among the opponents of the project, he said, “The noise they make is not proportional to their number.”

But Steinbach also complained that Tesla was clearly indifferent to local public opinion and had to act as Tesla’s mouthpiece as the company made little effort to communicate with the community. He complained that he often didn’t.

“I said it many times. I’m not a Tesla spokesman,” Steinbach said.

Officials said part of the delay was due to Tesla, which revised the building permit application at least 15 times, urging the need for new temporary approval.

Whenever it opens, the assembly plant is already a huge structure.Ann Aerial tour According to a local drone operator, you will see a completed roof lined with skylights and mushroom-shaped ventilation pipes. At the ground level, the loading bay is ready to accept components and raw materials.

Grünheide Mayor Arne Christiani revives the factory, a region that was once part of East Germany and has suffered since the reunification of Germany in 1990, when young people moved west in search of more excitement and opportunity. I think it’s a chance to let you.

Before the fall of the Berlin Wall, one of the largest employers in the region was the facility where the Stasi secret police opened and read emails received from friends and family in West Germany. The place where the Tesla factory stands was used by East German soldiers preparing to fight NATO. In fact, the property was wiped out of unexploded ordnance before construction began.

Christiani dismissed the site’s opponents as a small but loud minority dominated by wealthy newcomers — Heuer rejected. The mayor has expressed hope that the factory will grow even larger and attract other businesses to the area.

“I had an opportunity I couldn’t talk about two years ago,” said Christiani.

Berlin’s Tesla factory hits activists, bureaucracy and lizards

Source link Berlin’s Tesla factory hits activists, bureaucracy and lizards

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