Tesla wants to double the size of its German factory

Tesla wants to double the production capacity of its assembly plant outside Berlin to 1 million electric cars per year, a move that would make it the largest automaker in Europe at a time when German carmakers are struggling to keep up with the transition to electric cars.

Since Tesla began production in Grünheide 16 months ago, it has revolutionized the German automotive world. During the first half of this year, for the first time, it overtook Volkswagen in electric vehicle sales.

If the expansion, detailed in thousands of pages announced Wednesday, wins approval from local officials, the plant’s output will surpass that of Volkswagen’s historic Wolfsburg plant, which was built in the 1930s and remains Europe’s largest, with 815,000 cars a year.

Volkswagen and other German automakers, including BMW and Mercedes-Benz, have spent years fumbling in their attempts to produce electric cars that could rival Tesla in terms of price and popularity. Across the continent in June, new registrations of electric vehicles increased by more than 66 percent from a year earlier, outperforming diesel cars for the first time, according to the European Automobile Manufacturers Association.

Since March 2022, Tesla’s German factory has been producing about 5,000 Model Y sports cars every week – a pace roughly half its current capacity, which is still increasing. The company said it would like to increase the ability to build other models at the factory, but did not specify which ones. Expansion documents show that it is also seeking to double its production of battery cells, bringing its storage capacity to 100 gigawatt-hours per year.

The company told residents at a town hall-style event near the plant on Tuesday that the number of employees would rise to 22,500, up from 10,000 now. Dozens of jobs are advertised on the company’s website, most of which are in manufacturing, indicating that the company still has job openings at the existing factory.

Dirk Schultz, regional president of the IG Metall trade union, which counts 2.3 million workers nationwide among its ranks, welcomed the announcement of more jobs in the economically weak region. But he called for better working conditions for those on the job.

“Despite high levels of sick leave, staff are being cut on a massive scale,” Mr. Schulz said. “But production targets are not adjusted downward, so pressure is building on the remaining colleagues.”

IG Metall was frustrated by its inability to attract enough workers to produce an employee collective bargaining agreement at the plant. Tesla CEO Elon Musk has been vocal about his opposition to unions.

Residents and local organizations have one month to examine the plans and bring any concerns to the authorities. A public hearing is scheduled for October.

Tesla has faced resistance from area residents since the station was first proposed in 2019; They worry that the existing plant will be a drain on the groundwater. Expansion plans include construction of a water treatment facility, which will allow the plant to recycle water rather than expand its use of the resource.