21 Feb 2024, 13:15
Benjamin Wehrmann

Residents reject expansion of German Tesla factory in non-binding referendum


Residents of the Grünheide municipality near Berlin have rejected the planned expansion of the local Tesla factory in a non-binding referendum, public broadcaster rbb reported. Asked about the future of the U.S. carmaker’s German gigafactory, 65 percent of the more than 5,000 participants in the referendum voted “no” to Tesla’s plans to increase the size of its factory compound by 170 hectares to build a train station, warehouses and other infrastructure. Grünheide’s mayor, Arne Christiani, said he regretted the citizens’ decision. Christiani said the public mood about the Tesla factory had been worsening throughout the past year, which would put several important infrastructure projects in the small town on the outskirts of the German capital in jeopardy. However, the mayor said the vote’s result would mean that the current development plan cannot be adopted in its present form and needs to be discussed at an upcoming local council meeting in March. Jörg Steinbach, economy minister of the state of Brandenburg, in which Grünheide is located, said the vote should be taken seriously and used as an opportunity to reconcile the demands of citizens with the carmaker’s development plans. A citizens’ initiative against the expansion had argued that the clearing of more forest for Tesla and the high water use by the factory give reason to oppose the plans. “The ‘no’ note shows that this is the end of undemocratic exception rules and the scandalous ignoring of breached environmental and labour rules,” campaigner Lou Winters said. 

The U.S. electric carmaker’s large factory near Berlin, which opened in 2022, has been hailed by local lawmakers and business representatives as a flagship project that demonstrates the ability to implement major new industry projects fast in Germany. However, despite being a major employer providing jobs with a long-term perspective in the region, Tesla has grappled with local resistance against its investments from early on. The company currently employs about 12,500 people at its German factory and plans to increase its production capacity from around 300,000 today to one million cars per year.

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