Sunday 10th October 2021
Tesla’s factory opening
Musk surprises with gigabier and lots of rambazamba
By Hannah Schwär
Tesla boss Musk inaugurated the new factory in Grünheide, Brandenburg, with a huge party. In his short speech, he not only speaks German, but also reveals details about the factory and even announces his own type of beer. Meanwhile, conservationists protested outside the gates.
It was probably the most exclusive party that Grünheide has experienced in a long time: the US car manufacturer Tesla invited almost 9,000 guests to the open day of its new factory on Saturday. Significantly more had previously applied via the ticket lottery. But even the big tech bloggers and established media companies did not receive any invitations to the “Gigafest”.
The so-called Gigafactory at the gates of Berlin is the first and so far only large Tesla factory in Europe. Around 12,000 employees are expected to build up to 500,000 electric cars a year here. Tesla had the facility up and running in less than two years. And at your own risk. A final building permit has not yet been issued. Anyone who was able to get hold of an invitation to the inauguration party was able to experience an elaborately staged fair followed by a rave: Tesla came up with a Ferris wheel, bumper cars and disguised showmen, among other things. Children could knead battery cells, paint car parts or drive a Tesla bobby car.
Numerous employees cavorted on the site. Many Tesla managers got involved themselves. “I usually work as an engineer in cell production,” said a young man who issued souvenir stamps for visitors. Some colleagues would also help out at the bar or with ticket control. A childcare worker said that she was actually a computer scientist at the company.
Musk surprises with German
For the older visitors, the test drive with the Model Y and the factory tour should have been particularly interesting. During the one-hour tour through the factory halls, visitors were able to see the robot line for car body production, the press shop and the foundry, among other things. The view into the paint shop, which the company boss Elon Musk had previously touted as “the most advanced paint shop in the world”, was limited to a video. Shortly before 6 p.m. Elon Musk himself took the stage.
For his performance, he had prepared a speech in German of about five minutes, which he read from a smartphone, which was a little brittle. “Many thanks to all supporters of Gigaberlin Brandenburg. This party is for you,” the Tesla boss shouted to the clapping crowd. “Do Rambazamba for the rest of the evening. Berlin-Brandenburg rocks!” In the question and answer session that followed with the audience, Musk revealed new details about the gigafactory’s schedule. Production should start this year. “Basically November or December,” Musk said.
The first cars could perhaps be delivered as early as December. The start of large-scale production is planned for the end of 2022. Around 5,000 to 10,000 new cars will then roll off the assembly line every week. The factory will run on 100 percent renewable energy in the long term, he promised. Among other things, solar panels are to be installed on the roof for this purpose. The facade of the factory will be designed by local graffiti artists. In addition, a separate train station is planned on the site, which will connect the factory with Berlin. There will also be a kindergarten for the offspring of the plant employees.
Concern for the groundwater
Musk casually mentioned the biggest news for die-hard Tesla fans during his appearance. The entrepreneur announced his own company beer – the “Gigabier”. He did not reveal any further details. On a faded in photo only bottle-like bottles with the blue Tesla logo could be seen.
After the show, the Tesla fans danced to “High Tech Minimal” by German DJ Boris Brejcha, who, as usual, appeared under a Venetian mask. A taste of Musk’s music plans? The entrepreneur, who loves secrets, announced an underground rave cellar on the site last year. However, not everyone liked the Musk Show in Grünheide.
Just a few hundred meters from the big stage, right at the entrance to Tesla Street, opponents of the factory had set up an information booth and hung up banners. One of them read in capital letters: “Stop overexploitation of nature and groundwater immediately!” Frank Hundertmark from the Grünheide citizens’ initiative was among the dozen or so protesters. He fears that the factory could make drinking water in his home country scarce. “I find it irresponsible for future generations to build a plant here in the water protection area in the name of climate protection,” said Hundertmark.
Job engine for the region
He is not alone with his fears: The head of the local water association WSE, André Bähler, recently warned in the “Spiegel” of an impending shortage of supplies. In the final stage of expansion, the large Tesla factory will use almost as much water as a city of 100,000, according to his calculations. While Hundertmark, his colleagues and potentially critical reporters stayed in front of the factory gates, the Tesla-friendly Grünheide Network initiative, on the other hand, had a stand on the premises.
Tobias Lindh also belongs to the association. The 38-year-old web designer has been watching the Gigafabrik since the first excavators and cement machines came up here more than a year ago. The amateur filmmaker drives to the construction site twice a week to document the progress with his drone. He is now followed by thousands of Tesla fans from all over the world on social media. “It’s amazing what has happened here since my first walk in the woods,” said Lindh. Tesla builds at its own risk. So far, work has been carried out on the basis of early approvals. Final approval from the factory is pending. Lindh is betting that the factory will develop into a job engine.
“The industrial jobs will be good for the region,” he said on Saturday. “After the fall of the Wall, a lot has migrated here.” This would create new perspectives, especially for the younger generation. “Many grow up here, go to Berlin to study and then move to southern Germany for work.” That could change now with the Gigafabrik. Elon Musk announced 12,000 jobs on Saturday. “I’m a little worried we won’t find enough people,” he said. In this respect, the Gigafest in Grünheide can also be seen as an image polish for Tesla as an employer.
This article is at first “Capital” appeared.