Tesla wants to double the production capacity of its assembly plant outside Berlin to one million electric vehicles a year, a move that would make it the largest car plant in Europe at a time when German automakers are struggling to keep pace in the transition to electric vehicles.
Since it began production in Grünheide 16 months ago Tesla has disrupted the German automobile landscape. Over the first half of this year, for the first time, it eclipsed Volkswagen in electric vehicle sales.
If the expansion, detailed in thousands of pages made public on Wednesday, wins the approval of local officials, the plant’s output will surpass that of Volkswagen’s landmark factory in Wolfsburg, which was built in the 1930s and has remained Europe’s largest, able to roll out 815,000 cars a year.
Volkswagen and other German automakers, including BMW and Mercedes-Benz, have spent years fumbling their attempts to produce electric cars that can compete with Tesla in price and popularity. Across the continent in June, new registrations of electric cars increased more than 66 percent from a year earlier, outselling diesel cars for the first time, according to the European Automobile Manufacturers’ Association.
Since March 2022, Tesla’s German plant has been producing about 5,000 Model Y sport utility vehicles each week — a pace that is roughly half of its current capacity, which is still ramping up. The company said it would like to add capacity to build other models at the plant, but did not specify which ones. It is also seeking to double its production of battery cells, up to a storage capacity of 100 gigawatt hours per year, the expansion documents show.
The number of employees would rise to 22,500, up from 10,000 now, the company told residents at a town hall-style event near the plant on Tuesday. Dozens of jobs are advertised on the company’s website, the majority of them in manufacturing, indicating the company still has openings in the current plant.
Dirk Schulze, the regional head of the IG Metall labor 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 significant scale,” Mr. Schulz said. “But production targets are not being adjusted downward, so pressure on the remaining colleagues is increasing.”
IG Metall has been frustrated at its inability to attract enough workers to produce a collective-bargaining agreement for employees at the plant. Tesla’s chief executive, Elon Musk, has been blunt about his opposition to unions.
Local residents and organizations have one month to examine the plans and submit any concerns to authorities. A public hearing is to be held in October.
Tesla has encountered resistance from residents in the area since the plant was first proposed in 2019; they are concerned that the existing factory will be a drain on the groundwater. The expansion plans include construction of a water treatment facility, which would allow the factory to recycle water instead of expanding its use of resources.