Tesla’s first European Gigafactory may pump out its first vehicle in October, according to CEO Elon Musk, which is a bit later than the original forecast.
It’s also not a guarantee since the final governmental approval for the facility, which is located just outside Berlin, hasn’t been issued. Musk flew to Germany earlier this week to help get the plant back on track in terms of the new timeline.
“We’re looking forward to hopefully getting the approval to make the first cars maybe in October if we are fortunate,” Musk said. He offered the prediction while touring the site with Armin Laschet, Germany’s conservative candidate to succeed Angela Merkel as chancellor, according to Reuters.
Musk chalked up the delays to issues with governmental bodies as well as concerns expressed by local residents about the environmental impact of the $6.9 billion plant, which is in a forested area near Berlin.
It could be worse
The key component in Musk’s October target date is the final approval. Right now, there is no official governmental timeline for it, meaning it may not be until 2022 that GigaBerlin roars to life, churning out the Model Y in big numbers.
Part of getting the plant online to meet Musk’s October goal means assuaging the fears of area residents about the plant harming the environment. Published reports show public opposition to the complex is waning, which would certainly make it easier to get it up and running.
“It’s gonna be awesome,” Musk tweeted Aug. 11 clearly after seeing reports of the decline of opposition to the site.
Environment Minister Axel Vogel, a member of Germany’s Green Party, noted Aug. 11 at the State Parliament’s Environment Committee, the Brandenburg State Office for the Environment (LfU) received only 44 objections against the latest plans for GigaBerlin, according to Teslarati.com, which writes about the California-based EV maker.
It represents a dramatic decline from the last round of public comment about the facility, when 110 objections were lodged. That was considered a major improvement because the first time there were 373 complaints.
Previous problems in Germany
Musk likely knew building a plant in Germany would be — at the very least — a trying experience. Unlike construction of the plant in China, where most of the bureaucratic bottlenecks were resolved for him as the country was desperate for more EVs, this project’s hit all the hurdles. Going to Germany to problem solve isn’t new for Musk.
In 2017, he flew to Germany to smooth out wrinkles that would delay production of the Model 3. He spoke directly with employees at Tesla Grohmann Automation, the company’s then-engineering subsidiary, hoping to of head off a strike that would have delayed the sedan’s production launch.
While Tesla’s hourly workers in the U.S. are non-union, the 700 employees of Tesla Grohmann Automation belong to IG Metall. The workers had two primary concerns: salaries and layoffs.
They were unhappy being paid 30% less than the union scale. Tesla initially offered a nearly $300 a month bump in pay, still short of their target number.
Additionally, when Tesla bought the company in 2016, it ditched the company’s non-Tesla customers so it could focus on ensuring the Model 3 was ready. They were concerned once that was accomplished, they’d be laid off because of a perceived lack of work.
Musk reportedly assured them no layoffs were planned for at least five years, and he offered workers a 10,000-euro grant of Tesla stock, worth about $10,700 that vests quarterly over four years. They also received a 1,000-euro cash bonus.