Will Tesla Abandon Giga Berlin?

The last few months have been dominated by news about the failure of authorities in Europe. The COVID crisis revealed in a drastic way which politicians are ‘fair weather politicians’ whose incompetence is not noticeable when the work is going on, and which are really competent, demonstrating leadership especially in times of crisis. Unfortunately, it became very clear to us how many of the politicians are actually incompetent, and how the associated official apparatus fails just as badly.

In spite of a crisis, the authorities and politicians are guided by the premise that they should not make any decisions that could be blamed on them later. They reacted cautiously, haggled over money for vaccines, waited for the other EU countries, made sure that they would get the money back if an active ingredient did not come, hesitated in preparing vaccination routes, showed themselves incapable of recording COVID cases, required the submission and completion of dozens of printed pages to receive a vaccination, and insists on compliance with all rules and regulations, with the effect that there is too little vaccine in Europe and one has fallen far behind the US or Israel. Instead of thinking in terms of first principles, and thus the cost of prolonging the COVID crisis and deaths, they thought only of the tens of millions they could lose if they didn’t haggle hard enough. Or the incorrectly filled out forms that you would get printed out and then have to re-enter by hand into the incompatible individual solutions in each state and agency.

In this respect, Elon Musk’s announcement that the first Gigafactory on European soil would be built in Germany was a bold surprise. And Tesla got a taste of the trouble Germany would cause the company from the start. The spectrum ranged from demonstrations immediately set up to protest the preservation of the utility forest, to undisguised threats from the IG Metall trade union or the responsible authority representatives that “Tesla, too, will have to play by the rules,” to whining that job postings for new employees were also published in Polish. It is clear that the stakes are not high for Tesla, but even more so for Germany as a business location. After the disaster with Berlin Airport BER or Stuttgart 21, Germany has to prove that it can still do projects at all. Tesla doesn’t have to prove that, because with the Gigafactory Shanghai, which took less than 12 months from the groundbreaking ceremony to the start of production, Tesla has shown that it can get projects off the ground in record time.

Problems with the Agencies

Tesla received a first taste of troubles in early 2020 now seems not only to have come true, but to be massively accumulating. 16 months after the start of factory construction – just three months before the planned start of production at the Gigafactory Berlin-Grünheide – Tesla predominantly still has ‘preliminary’ building permits. The review procedures of the relevant authorities are so slow and cumbersome that the ‘paper pushing’ takes more time than the earthmoving involved in building the factory.

While Tesla has also brought some problems on itself, such as forgetting to pay the water bill, these were fixed at the same time and are comparatively insignificant. It also became apparent that the industrial area that the country had offered Tesla for the factory did not seem to have sufficient resources to operate the factory. The authorities now stated that for the water consumption planned by Tesla, which had already been drastically reduced, an audit by the supplier, the Strausberg-Erkner Water Association (WSE), would take five(!) years. The question arises whether the country and the authorities have deceived Tesla with the actual resources and possibilities of the industrial area?

Faced with these facts after 16 months, however, with the targeted July date for the start of production looking increasingly unlikely, Tesla felt compelled to resort to what can only be described as the ‘nuclear option’. It is an option one chooses only when one sees no other way out and he destroys everything along the way. Tesla filed a letter with the Higher Administrative Court of Berlin-Brandenburg to complain about the slow process of authorities. For example, Tesla has not even received a schedule for the approval process from the authorities to date.

Environment minister Axel bird explained on Wednesday unnerved that already before the urgently expected total permission for the Tesla the federal state authorities had to do with the examination of the numerous preliminary applications. Until May one is occupied only with those From authority coworkers one hears also that Tesla would put the officials ‘in stress’.

Tesla’s Options

What options does Tesla have now?

Option 1: people get their act together, pull themselves together at the authorities, stretch up their shirtsleeves, pinch their butt cheeks, and Tesla accepts a delay of up to six months until the completion of the factory, the conclusion of the approval process and the start of production, and makes a concerted effort to save the project.

Option 2: Tesla pulls the emergency brake, stops construction, writes off a billion euros in costs, relocates to a neighboring country such as Poland, 60 kilometers away, and builds a factory there in 12 months.

There is no question that option 2 would be the super-GAU for Germany. If Tesla does this, the signal effect to the world that Germany is a failed state for business and innovation is clear and catastrophic for Germany. A country can’t get anything up anymore. A country so satisfied with itself that it no longer wants to make an effort. A country that no longer wants to play at the top.

That Tesla would dare to take such a step was already visible in California, when Musk threatened to close the Fremont factory and build it up in Texas (he does the latter anyway). But this option is there and it is more real than you think. As one of the richest people in the world with an estimated fortune of more than a hundred billion euros, the one billion he sunk in Berlin-Grünheide doesn’t matter.

The ‘Amicus Curiae Letter‘ to the Higher Administrative Court of Berlin-Brandenburg is a final and very serious warning shot. If it is not heard and acted upon, Tesla will have to say: “Bye Germany, hello Poland!


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This article was also published in German.

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