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Locals reject Tesla plans to expand German plant outside Berlin

Published February 21,2024

The citizens of the German town of Grünheide have rejected plans by US carmaker Tesla to expand its factory just outside Berlin in a non-binding vote, the district administration announced on Tuesday.

Residents had been asked to participate in a survey on Tesla's plans to expand the 300-hectare site by adding a freight depot, warehouses and a company kindergarten on an additional 170 hectares. Some 100 hectares of forest would have to be cleared to make room for the additions.

Some 5,400 people took part in the survey, with 3,499 voting against and 1,882 voting in favour of the expansion. The vote is not binding but considered an important indicator of whether district representatives will approve the plans.

Environmental activists oppose the expansion, citing the necessary clearing of the forest as well as the fact that part of the area is located within a water protection zone.

Tesla argues that the region would benefit from the plans, saying that the freight depot would help reduce the burden on freight traffic, while additional warehouse space would help to increase supply security and jobs.

Just last month, the US carmaker was forced to halt production at its German plant due to a lack of parts stemming from Iran-backed Yemeni Houthi attacks on ships in the Red Sea. Production was only resumed last week.

According to the Grünheide administration, some 70% of those eligible - residents from age 16 who had been living in the town for at least three months - participated in the survey.

Tesla hopes an expansion will allow it to double its production capacity in Grünheide from the current interim target of 500,000 cars annually to 1 million. Around 12,500 employees work at the plant, most recently producing 6,000 cars a week - the equivalent of 300,000 vehicles a year.