Tesla CEO Elon Musk was in Germany to see the first models produced at the $7.4 billion Gruenheide plant.
Tesla is ramping up its European offensive as the first Tesla Model Y EVs have begun rolling off the line at its new Berlin Gigafactory.
Tesla CEO Elon Musk was joined by German Chancellor Olaf Scholtz to oversee the first 30 cars built at the €5 billion ($7.38bn) Gruenheide plant being handed over to customers.
“This is a great day for the factory,” Musk told Reuters, calling the start of production “another step in the direction of a sustainable future”.
Gruenheide is Tesla’s first European hub, having first been announced two years ago. It’s the company’s third major production facility, joining those in the US and China.
The 30 new Model Y owners and their families were joined by German Tesla fans, who posted images and videos of the handover event to social media.
— Thorben (@ThorbenGroth) March 22, 2022
The facility will eventually produce 500,000 cars per year when at full capacity, which is expected to take around two years. It will also generate 50 gigawatt hours (GWh) of battery power, eclipsing all other car plants in Germany.
Rival company Volkswagen is preparing to turn its Wolfburg facility into an EV production hub, but the €2bn (AUD$2.95bn) upgrade isn’t expected to be completed until 2026.
Globally, the entire Volkswagen Group produced around 450,000 EVs last year.
Gruenheide was originally planned to open last summer, but the start of production was delayed by supply-chain issues created by the pandemic, as well as concerns about the plant’s environmental impact.
Tesla received final approval to start car production there on 4 March, having almost lost its water-supply contracts following a complaint by local environmental groups. The American company subsequently promised to minimise water usage and to plant more trees than were removed during construction, although these promises weren’t enough to prevent protesters from gathering outside the facility during the handover ceremony.
Tesla has said that new car orders from the plant could be delivered from April.