Tesla extends production tests at behind-schedule Berlin factory

Automotive Industry

Source: Automotive News Europe, 2022-01-11

Tesla has been given permission to extend preproduction testing at its new factory near Berlin while the automaker waits for the project.

Approval granted in October 2021 for tests for 250 vehicles has been prolonged, the Bradenburg State Environment Ministry told the German press agency dpa.

Tesla has told the authority that the results of tests done so far have not been satisfactory, according to report from the German press agency dpa, published in Automotive News Europe sibling publication Automobilwoche.

This led the Brandenburg State Environmental Office to approve a request for additional functional tests with up to 2,000 more car bodies. The Berlin daily Tagesspiegel first reported this arrangement.

Tesla is allowed to build bodies for testing at the site in Gruenheide, but not to sell them, Tagesspiegel said. The automaker is now permitted produce 500 bodies a week up to a maximum of 2,000.

Tesla also is allowed to process 6,000 parts per week in the press shop, with a maximum production of 26,000 parts in total, the paper said. The parts may be painted and assembled into vehicles in final assembly. 

Already, new Model Ys are said to have been spotted regularly on the factory floor, according to Tagesspiegel. 

Tesla CEO Elon Musk had hoped that production could start as early as July 2021. However, the building application was expanded to include a battery factory, among other things, which has prolonged the approval process. The review is in the final stages, according to the Brandenburg's environment ministry.

Tesla is building the plant, its first factory in Europe, through a temporary approvals process, one that has not always run smoothly. In April 2021 the automaker said production was on track for late 2021. 

Progress at the site has been slower than hoped, with backlash from environmental groups concerned about water use and wildlife postponing the start of production by several months. Germany’s Economy Ministry estimates that Tesla is investing around €5bn ($5.7bn) in Gruenheide.

The Brandenburg state government said in late December 2021 that Tesla had submitted all the documents necessary for the final approval process. Brandenburg Premier Dietmar Woidke has said that a decision might come early this year.

Tesla has said up to 500,000 Model Y midsize SUVs could be produced at the site annually once it is completed. Model Ys sold in Europe are now imported from Shanghai. 

As Tesla awaits final approval, the German metalworkers union IG Metall has opened an office close to the factory in an effort to recruit as many workers as possible. The union says the automaker is paying 20% less than the collectively bargained wages offered by German rivals.

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