Tesla’s German Factory Needs Help From Shanghai

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Despite achieving a miraculous global expansion in a period where established industrial conglomerates and regulatory hurdles make it nearly impossible for new automakers to persist, Tesla’s German facility is running behind schedule. Production at the Gruenheide plant (aka Giga Berlin or Gigafactory 4) was originally planned to commence this month, with deliveries kicking off shortly thereafter. But those targets have been shifted closer to the end of this year or the more likely scenario of early 2022.

As Tesla would still like to supply the market, its facility in Shanghai will begin shipping vehicles to Europe in August until local production can be achieved. Model Y crossovers will be imported from China until its German site has its assembly lines humming, which has turned out to be a harder task than the automaker anticipated. 

Tesla CEO Elon Musk has repeatedly criticized bureaucratic hang-ups in California, citing them as the reason why he’s shifting much of the business to Texas. Germany has also garnered complaints, with Musk noting that regulatory issues were causing numerous delays in getting its Gruenheide plant operational. Building permits have been repeatedly delayed after environmentalists wanted to protect the forested area the build site was located upon, with claims that setting up a factory would harm endangered animal populations. The company also had a row with its water supplier over allegations that it had not been paying the Strausberg-Erkner water association, something that later turned out to be a miscommunication.

But it’s been issues like these that have stalled progress and ultimately forced Model Ys to come in from China, according to the latest from Automotive News:

Tesla has faced a series of setbacks to opening its German factory, with Musk expressing dissatisfaction with the complex regulation and red tape tangling up the opening of the plant.

The U.S. automaker wants to produce around 500,000 Model Y and Model 3 cars annually in Gruenheide. The company still lacks the final environmental permit for the construction.

Officials from Brandenburg state, where the plant is located, said last week that Tesla had constructed tanks on the site without approval and said they were preparing to fine the automaker.

German news outlets have cited the company as confirming it will still begin delivering vehicles (specifically the Chinese-made crossovers) next month. But the local facility is still supposed to become Europe’s primary sourcing point for Model Y EVs and the necessary batteries once it’s been completed. Unfortunately, the timeline for when remains flexible. Despite having made a substantial amount of headway on the factory already, German authorities have stated that the company will not be able to utilize the aforementioned tanks (and several other structures) it allegedly built without the proper permissions. However, that’s likely to be settled once Tesla drops a sack full of money onto the desk of whatever government agencies need to be reminded of the company’s commitment to the region.

That doesn’t mean conditions are better in China, however. Tesla has been subjected to large (sometimes suspect) recalls in the region and what looks to have been a prolonged smear campaign over allegations that its cars were poorly built and could be used to help foreign entities spy on the Chinese military. Alleged Tesla customers also protested the company the Shanghai Auto Show this year, with several regulatory bodies investigating the quality of locally produced models. Many have argued these moves were political, with state-run media intentionally trying to bully an American company that recently finished a large, technologically advanced production site inside of China.

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