German Police Investigate Possible Arson At Tesla’s Gigafactory

Tesla’s hopes of building a giant factory in Germany are not without its problems, after a fire was alleged started deliberately, with far-left activists claiming responsibility.

German police are investigating whether the fire overnight at the construction site of Tesla’s first European Gigafactory had a political motive, the Guardian newspaper reported.

Tesla had been considering the UK or Germany to construct its Gigafactory, but in 2019 opted to build it in Germany, citing the uncertainty of Brexit for its reason.

Possible arson

Earlier this month Germany’s largest trade union set its sights set on organising labour at Tesla’s first European plant, in spite of a seeming lack of enthusiasm from the company.

Tesla reportedly ignored a letter from the union inviting a dialogue last year and has declined to enter into the industry’s collective agreement with Tesla Grohmann Automation, an engineering firm it acquired in 2016.

The company has also so far made no move to join the country’s employers’ association, of which virtually every major carmaker operating in Germany is a member, and through which they negotiate industry-wide contracts.

Tesla has begun hiring for the plant in Gruenheide, and IG Metall head Joerg Hofmann said he was looking to set up a works council at the site

But now Tesla is having to contend with an arson attack at the construction site in Grünheide in the eastern state of Brandenburg.

The fire reportedly damaged several power cables, the Guardian quoted a spokesperson for the LKA state criminal investigation office as saying.

Arson has reportedly not been ruled out and investigators were examining a letter that circulated on social media on Wednesday that claimed responsibility.

The letter, which was published on a radical-left platform, said it had cut the power supply to the Tesla site by setting fire to six high-voltage cables above ground.

“Tesla is neither green, ecological nor social,” the letter reportedly said, according to the LKA spokesperson.

Construction problems

Tesla’s hopes of a painless construction of the factory in Germany have not materialised.

Elon Musk has reportedly complained about German red tape that requires lengthy approval processes, after construction of the factory was held up by environmentalists concerned about local wildlife and water resources.

German authorities also recently investigated possible violations of labour laws at the construction site, but later said they had found no violations.

Tesla aims to eventually build 500,000 European-market cars per year while producing next-generation battery cells at the facility.

Tesla had originally planned to start production at the plant on 1 July this year, but the date was pushed back towards the end of 2021 due to red tape, as well as plans to build a battery cell factory on the site.

Tom Jowitt

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelancer and long standing contributor to Silicon UK. He is also a bit of a Lord of the Rings nut...

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