By on August 13, 2021

Tesla Gigafactory has been hit with more red tape than a last-minute Christmas present and is reportedly nearing completion. Elon Musk even suggested the facility could be producing vehicles by the end of October. However, some of the language emanating from his recent 0n-site engagement has us wondering what the odds are on that becoming a reality. The facility has already been delayed on more than one occasion by environmental activists and bureaucratic hang-ups. Though it now appears to be within a few weeks of commencing operations, Tesla’s CEO didn’t sound overly optimistic about the target.

On Friday, Musk met with Armin Laschet — Germany’s leading Conservative candidate to succeed Angela Merkel as chancellor — to tour the grounds of Gigafactory Berlin (technically Gruenheide). Though the main event was Elon’s preceding meeting with local Brandenburg officials that have not yet given final approval on the facility, citing ecological concerns. 

“We’re looking forward to hopefully getting the approval to make the first cars maybe in October if we are fortunate,” Musk was quoted by Reuters as saying during the factory tour.

From Reuters:

Tesla has faced resistance over the plant whose site partly overlaps a drinking water protection zone and borders a nature reserve.

“This region has so much water, look around you,” Musk said at the factory when asked about the water concerns. “It’s like water everywhere here. Does this seem like a desert to you?” he asked, laughing. “It rains a lot.”

“We’ve gotten a lot of support and that’s very much appreciated,” he said. “We feel very welcome and we’re very happy to be here in Deutschland.”

The level of precipitation doesn’t have anything to do with whether or not Tesla’s presence is going to sully the surrounding protected environment. But you have to give the guy credit for being adept at dancing around criticism and knowing what to say to ensure the desired effect. It’s assuredly one of his strongest traits as a businessman, making him a modern P. T. Barnum with sufficient substance to avoid some of the criticisms leveled at the elder — not that either magnate seems to mind or deny their roles as showmen.

Following the tour, Musk suggested that locals show up to the facility to make up their own minds. “Giga Berlin-Brandenburg county fair & factory tour on 9 October!” he tweeted. “Priority for residents of Brandenburg & Berlin, but also open to general public.”

But the statements issued to the press were less than rosy. Terms like “hopefully” and “if we are fortunate” would seem to indicate the CEO has little confidence that Brandenburg is going to go easy on the facility. It wasn’t just Musk, either. Laschet has been critical of regulators in the past and has been exchanging blows with political rivals and the media ahead of September’s election.

“Sometimes one has the impression that inventing something new is technologically easier than dismantling bureaucracy in Germany,” he told reporters while touring the factory.

Meanwhile, Elon Musk has requested Germany issue periodic reviews of government regulations at local, state, and federal levels to determine if they’re actually benefiting the nation. He’s requested the same be done by the European Union upon identical grounds. He’s claiming that they likely are not, adding that he wanted the Gigafactory to “serve as an inspiration to people in Germany” and cautioned overregulation will eventually make commerce too costly or difficult for anyone to bother pursuing.

“It cannot always be about problems every day. Do you want to wake up every morning and everything’s just a problem? Musk asked. “[I want] people to be inspired about the future, and don’t forget to have children — that’s important.”

While Whitney Houston’s “Greatest Love Of All” is likely playing in your head after hearing that, the Randy Watson version is vastly superior, especially if you think Musk is pandering. But the dude has seven kids so he’s definitely been, uh, walking the walk. I’ll leave it up to you to decide if he’s as earnest about the rest.

[Image: Jag_cz/Shutterstock]

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12 Comments on “Place Your Bets: German Gigafactory Operational By October?...”


  • avatar
    schmitt trigger

    You are absolutely correct that a common trait of many successful business people is to become a showman of sorts.
    But they have to walk a very fine line between boundless optimism and deception.

  • avatar
    SoCalMikester

    american companies are going to find out that europeans arent as stupid as americans as far as letting companies do whatever they want, because “jerb creeaters”

    some people actually CARE about their surroundings

  • avatar
    Manic

    Local sales of China-made Teslas dropped by 69% to 8,621 cars in July, from 28,138 in June. Exports from Shanghai factory almost quintupled to 24,347 EVs, with most going to Europe. There’s a lot of excess capacity in China soon.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    “a modern P. T. Barnum”

    OK, but *that* showman hadn’t produced 1.4 million cars, employing 70,000 people.

    As for the Berlin plant, from reading this article one could get the impression that Tesla showed up one day, felled a forest, and built a plant. No, German regulators have been reviewing this plant for a long time, even during the site selection process. There are no surprises here. This is just red tape.

    The only reason Tesla is building a plant there is to better serve the European market. Nobody said it would be easy, and certainly not as easy as the Shanghai plant.

    Let’s name the other US mfrs with a German car plant… only Ford. Tesla is willing to fight in the arena by spending billions, but here at TTAC they’re mocked because they may or may not hit a made-up start date.

    Whether this plant is producing cars in October is immaterial.

    • 0 avatar
      DenverMike

      It’s a circus act. If they were just overpriced EVs, minus the foolery, grand illusion and smoking mirrors, how well would they sell?

      • 0 avatar
        SCE to AUX

        C’mon Mike. That’s not why Tesla sell.

        Like it or not, Tesla builds the best-looking, best-performing, and best-value EV available. People like me have other reasons *not* to buy a Tesla, and the numbers clearly say I’m in the minority.

  • avatar
    myllis

    Musk didn’t mentioned IG Metall workers union. Tesla is now a collision course with IG Metall. IG Metall is Germany’s largest, strongest and richiest union and it can freeze Berlin factory totally (nothing comes in and nothing comes out). IG Metall drives Tesla workers same benefits, equal salaries, health care, pension, holidays, work council and rules, what Mercedes, BMW and VW has accepted. IG Metall wants also seat on board as they have Mercedes, BMW and VW boards. Without contract with IG Metall, Tesla Berlin factory will never get cars out. Strong German unions has been culture shock for many US companies like Amazon.com and Wallmart. Retail giant Amazon had to learn it hard way and Wallmart had to leave from Germany.

    • 0 avatar
      SCE to AUX

      I would hope Tesla considered this angle before choosing a German site.

      If your scenario comes to pass, Tesla should just walk away and build a new factory in Romania or something.

  • avatar
    Sundance

    “It cannot always be about problems every day. Do you want to wake up every morning and everything’s just a problem? Musk asked.” Sorry Elon, that’s our German nature. We can’t just be happy. And we hate so see another one being happy. So we try everything to bring everone down and that’s why we invited German bureaucracy.

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