Can Germany Do Tesla?

The surprise was perfect, when Elon Musk got the trophy “Golden Steering Wheel” as the first place from BILD/Autobild for the Model 3. In his award speech the Tesla CEO announced that the Gigafactory 4 will be located in Berlin-Brandenburg in Germany.

While media and politicians were celebrating, and are counting on thousands of new jobs in the region, we are munching on the question whether Germany, and more specifically the region of Berlin-Brandenburg, will be capable and willing to construct an car factory of those dimensions in less than two years.

Germany’s signaling power has been catastrophic in the recent years. Berlin Airport BER has become an international embarrassment. The very own automotive industry has been struggling with their self-inflicted Diesel scandal. Uncertainties, layoffs, and missing answers to the changes in the automotive sector. And politicians seemingly can’t care less. Internet broadband infrastructure and phone network are prehistoric.

But Germany is proud about the Cookie laws, upload filters, and GDPR, which has put much more damage on their own companies than the original target – American corporations such as Facebook and Google. It’s fitting that the German labor ministry installed an AI observatory, whose aim it is to monitor chances and risks of AI. Well, the first thing the government did to look at autonomous cars is installing an ethics commission.

It’s not helping, if you have encountered German agencies. Not only is it impossible to submit construction plans and documents digitally in the year 2019, they have to be submit in paper form in multiple copies. But not in folders, because “we cannot pile them”, but please hand them over in files, “otherwise you can take them home right away.” Yup, no joke, one of my entrepreneurial friends told me that story.

That is Germany in the year 2019.

At the same time China made it happen that Tesla could build the Gigafactory 3 in less than a year, and has started producing Model 3 vehicles. China has built more high speed rail tracks than the rest of the world has combined. And announced investments of more than 100 billion dollars for artificial intelligence. And used more concrete in the last 10 years than the US has used in its entire history.

That is China in the year 2019.

If Germany, and specifically the Berlin-Brandenburg region wants to demonstrate that they are able to pull it off, then nice words are not enough. From this moment on, all people and organizations involved have to get together, do some soul searching, collaborating, communication, and pull together towards the same goal. They have to demonstrate that Germany in 2019 is not the country that can’t, that forbids, that over-regulates, doesn’t understand, and fails.

If it is not going to work out, then we have lost the future for good. My guess, whether Tesla’s Gigafactory will open in 2021 and have the first cars rolling off the conveyor belt?

50:50 – and I am a natural optimist.

This article was also published in German.


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