Tesla is looking to double the production capacity of its assembly plant outside Berlin to one million electric vehicles per year, a move that would make it the biggest car plant in Europe, at a time when German automakers are struggling to keep up with the pace of the transition to electric vehicles.
Since the start of production in Grünheide 16 months ago, Tesla has disrupted the German automobile landscape. In the first half of this year, for the first time, it overtook Volkswagen in electric vehicle sales.
If the detail detailed in thousands of pages made public on Wednesday is approved by local authorities, the plant’s output will exceed Volkswagen’s historic factory in Wolfsburg, which was built in the 1930s and remains Europe’s largest, capable of making 815,000 cars a year.
Volkswagen and other German automakers including BMW and Mercedes-Benz have spent years ramping up their efforts to produce electric cars that could compete with Tesla in price and popularity. Across the continent in June, new registrations for electric cars rose by more than 66 percent from a year earlier, according to the European Automobile Manufacturers’ Association, which for the first time outnumbered diesel cars.
Starting March 2022, Tesla’s German plant is producing about 5,000 Model Y sport utility vehicles per week — a pace that’s roughly half of its current capacity, which is still growing. The company said it would like to increase the capacity to make other models at the plant, but did not say which models would be made. Detail documents show it is also seeking to double its production of battery cells to a storage capacity of 100 gigawatt hours per year.
The company told residents at a town hall-style event near the plant on Tuesday that the workforce will now increase from 10,000 to 22,500. There are dozens of jobs advertised on the company’s website, most of them in manufacturing, indicating that the company’s current plant still has vacancies.
Dirk Schulze, regional head of the IG metal workers’ union, which has 2.3 million workers nationwide, welcomed the announcement of more jobs in the economically vulnerable sector. But he called for better working conditions for those on the job.
“Despite high levels of sick leave, the workforce is being cut in a big way,” Mr Schulz said. “But production targets are not being adjusted downward, so pressure is mounting on the remaining partners.”
IG Metal has become frustrated with its inability to attract enough workers to draw up a collective-bargaining agreement for the workers at the plant. Tesla’s chief executive, Elon Musk, has been outspoken about his opposition to unions.
Local residents and organizations have one month to scrutinize the plans and submit any concerns to the authorities. Public hearing is to be held in October.
Tesla has faced opposition from residents of the area since the plant was first proposed in 2019; They are concerned that the existing factory will waste groundwater. Expansion plans include the construction of a water treatment facility, which would allow the factory to recycle water instead of increasing its use of the resource.