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‘Danke Deutschland!’ Elon Musk hands over first ‘made in Germany’ Teslas

Tesla CEO Elon Musk danced for joy at the inauguration of his "gigafactory" electric car plant near Berlin Tuesday, shrugging off two years of bureaucracy and delays to watch customers drive off with the first Model Y vehicles made in Europe.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and Elon Musk, Tesla CEO, attend the opening of the Tesla factory in Berlin Brandenburg.
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and Elon Musk, Tesla CEO, attend the opening of the Tesla factory in Berlin Brandenburg. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/dpa-Zentralbild POOL | Patrick Pleul

“Danke Deutschland!” (Thank you, Germany) Musk tweeted after the red ribbon ceremony, where he joined workers in applauding the first 30 drivers to get behind the wheel of their new cars.

The US billionaire even broke into a little dance during the handovers, reviving memories of the slightly awkward jig he did at a launch event in Shanghai in 2020 that lit up the internet.

The factory opening caps an arduous two-year approval and construction process that saw Tesla run into a series of administrative and legal hurdles, including complaints from locals about the site’s environmental impact.

READ ALSO: Tesla gets final approval for ‘Gigafactory’ near Berlin

Having started construction at its own risk, Tesla finally won the formal go-ahead from regional authorities to begin production earlier this month.

The “gigafactory” in Grünheide, in Germany’s eastern state of Brandenburg, is Tesla’s first production site in Europe, and officials are hoping it will
help the region position itself as a hub for electric vehicle production.

The Californian company aims to eventually employ some 12,000 workers at the site who will churn out around 500,000 Model Y cars annually, the firm’s all-electric, compact SUVs.

Tesla’s arrival is expected to jolt Germany’s flagship car industry, setting the stage for fierce competition with rivals Volkswagen, BMW and
Mercedes-Benz as they pivot from traditional engines to cleaner electric vehicles.

“The new era in the auto industry has now arrived in Germany too,” said analyst Ferdinand Dudenhoeffer from the Center for Automotive Research.

Away from Russian oil

Tesla’s focus on Europe comes as the continent grapples with sky-high energy costs that have sent petrol prices soaring, prompting some drivers to
take a closer look at electric alternatives.

The “Giga Berlin-Brandenburg” is “one of the biggest strategic endeavours for Tesla over the last decade and should further vault its market share within Europe over the coming years as more consumers aggressively head down the EV path,” analysts at investment firm Wedbush said.

But Tesla has not been spared the pain from shortages of key materials and supply chain disruptions, linked in part to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, that are also plaguing other carmakers.

Musk tweeted last week that the company was seeing “significant recent inflation pressure” in raw materials and logistics.

Tesla boss Elon Musk at the Gigafactory opening on Tuesday.

Tesla boss Elon Musk at the Gigafactory opening on Tuesday. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/dpa-Zentralbild POOL | Patrick Pleul

‘Special day’

Economy Minister Robert Habeck, who attended Tuesday’s inauguration along with Chancellor Olaf Scholz, said it was “a special day for Germany’s mobility transformation”.

In a nod to efforts to reduce reliance on Russian energy, Habeck said electric cars took Germany “one step further away from oil imports”.

He also called for more “Tesla speed” in other infrastructure projects, including the expansion of renewable energies.

Although Musk was frequently frustrated by the red tape that slowed down his Gruenheide plans, by German standards the factory was up and running in record time.

The inauguration was not universally welcomed, however, with environmental campaigners protesting near the site.

Among their demands was a call for better and free public transport instead of “yet more cars”, said spokeswoman Lou Winters from the Sand in the Gears environmental group.

By Florian CAZERES

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TECH

Germany opens anti-cartel probe into Google Maps

Germany's anti-cartel watchdog said Tuesday it has opened a probe into Google Maps over restrictions that may be giving it an unfair advantage over competitors.

Germany opens anti-cartel probe into Google Maps

“The proceeding is to examine possible anti-competitive restrictions imposed by Google Maps Platform to the detriment of alternative map services providers,” the Federal Cartel Office said in a statement.

Andreas Mundt, president of the watchdog, said it had reason to believe that Google “may be restricting the combination of its own map services with third-party map services, for example when it comes to embedding Google Maps location data, the search function or Google Street View into maps not provided by Google”.

The move comes after the Federal Cartel Office in January classified Google´as a company of “paramount significance across markets”, paving the way for the authorities to clamp down on any potentially anti-competitive activities.

Parallel proceedings are already ongoing to examine Google’s terms and conditions for data processing and its news offer Google News Showcase.

An amendment of the German Competition Act came into force last year, allowing the authority to intervene earlier, particularly against huge digital companies.

The watchdog has also classified Meta, the company that owns Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram, as a company of “paramount significance across markets”.

Big tech companies have been facing increasing scrutiny around the globe over their dominant positions as well as their tax practices.

The EU and Britain in March opened antitrust probes into a 2018 deal between Google and Meta allegedly aimed at cementing their dominance over the online advertising market.

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