Economy & Politics

TeslaElon Musk gets Germany going

Elon Musk at the first topping-out ceremony on the construction site of the Tesla Gigafactory in Grünheide
Elon Musk at the first topping-out ceremony on the construction site of the Tesla Gigafactory in Grünheideimago images / Future Image

It’s ten electrifying minutes for the few onlookers who are allowed to take a look at the eccentric tech investor. “Germany rocks”, Elon Musk calls out to them when he surprisingly appears on the construction site of his new Gigafactory in Grünheide, Brandenburg on Thursday. His timing leaves a lot to be desired for fans and the media. There was no official announcement of his visit. Apparently, he did not attach any importance to a large reception committee. But the billionaire enjoys the small stage, he is visibly relaxed and in a good mood.

The location for his fifth Gigafactory is perfect, he probably wants to say with his words. Grünheide was the right decision for him. If everything goes well, around 500,000 electric cars will roll off the assembly line here from summer 2021. The region is groaning under high unemployment, local politicians are hoping for 12,000 jobs immediately with the new factory. As Prime Minister Dietmar Woitke explains after his meeting with Musk, the construction site is fortunately already showing the desired “pull effect”.

Tesla accelerates. A good three months ago the area was untouched nature. The forest has now been rolled flat and the first hall – for the paint shop – is in place. The topping-out wreath is already dangling from the building. It is conceivable that the new Gigafactory will be finished even faster than the one in Shanghai, which was built in the record time of eleven months. This is only possible because Musk works with preliminary permits and at your own risk. Nobody believes that there could soon be a ruin here. Why is he pushing the pace so fast? Shouts an onlooker outside the gates of the construction site. “I believe in speed,” is Musk’s answer. It is important for the climate and the world that the transition to renewable energy takes place as quickly as possible. The speed with which he approaches his projects is his unmistakable trademark – even in Germany, where the hurdles of bureaucracy are high, Musk cannot be stopped.

A strong signal for the business location

His investments are “a great signal for the business location”, says the tech expert Frank Thelen. Musk is finally bringing speed to Germany. That is the proof: “We can still do it fast!” German investors could take a look at something here, he says. Musk is “a lottery win”, but that is not enough. “Now we have to imitate him. We have to show a pioneering spirit again, show courage without fear and run forward. “

Thelen calls it a great stroke of luck that Musk is a predominantly international investor in Germany. However, the focus on the German automotive industry is understandable. Auto expert Stefan di Bitonto from Germany Trade & Invest (GTAI) agrees. The economy has something to offer investors of the caliber Musk: “Germany is a location with high demands, great expertise and a high density of engineers. Almost 40 percent of all premium vehicles are manufactured here in the country. Exactly the segment in which Tesla operates. If you want to build a premium car, then it makes sense to do so in Germany. ”With Musk, one is now“ prepared for the automotive future ”. The location can “look to the future strengthened”, says di Bitonto

Tesla construction site in Grünheide: the factory should be ready in 2021
Tesla construction site in Grünheide: the factory should be ready in 2021 (Photo: imago images / Future Image)

The Tesla factory in Grünheide is not Musk’s first investment in the German auto industry. Three years ago he bought the auto supplier Grohmann in Prüm in the Eifel. That also worked for Tesla, said Thelen. At Grohmann’s, Musk stopped on Tuesday on his Germany tour. It’s a win-win situation for both parties. The exceptional entrepreneur benefits from Germany, but the business location Germany receives new impetus from him.

The tech visionary should take Germany on a journey into the future. Its ability to “vehemently implement visions”, as di Bitonto describes it, should help. From Thelen’s point of view, Musk brings everything with him, his interest is in groundbreaking future technologies. Companies like Tesla, SpaceX, Hyperloop or Neuralink show that he’s not just a visionary, he loves spectacular things. The impossible drives him. Critics have often presented his plans as impossible. But in the end, Musk always made it: his rockets fly, the Tesla rolls, even the Neuralink chip in the human brain, which is supposed to connect the app store with the human brain, recently made its grand debut.

Musk’s greatest asset is his mind, explains Thelen. Be it artificial intelligence, battery technologies, quantum computers, 5G or blockchain, “Elon Musk understands these technologies,” he says. “It’s his DNA.” To ask how rockets can be launched cheaply into space, how things can become possible that were not possible before. “Musk believes in exponential progress. That’s what sets it apart from other investors. “

Musk, an explosive cocktail

For the billionaire and investor Carsten Maschmayer, it is the mixture of “creative disobedience, irrepressible pressure to change” and a little bit of “ego trip” that makes Musk so successful. “Brave things” that are a “great role model for tech founders”, as the jury member from the startup show “Höhle der Löwen” admits in the ntv podcast “So techt Germany”, who does not consider himself a big fan of the eccentric US billionaire called.

Tech investor Thelen also sees something else in Musk’s investment decisions: The fact that he uses the technology of his auto supplier Grohmann for a 3D printer, for example, so that the vaccine manufacturer Curevac can ignite the turbo in production, “shows that man wants help”. But it is also clear: whoever brings a vaccine to market the fastest, will be rewarded with big money. The car and space revolutionary can suddenly still hope to be among the frontrunners in the pharmaceutical industry in the near future.

It is the successful combination of genius and luck, if you will. Add to that a healthy dose of restlessness. Musk is said to have brought new investment ideas with him. Allegedly he has targeted the German energy industry and has already sounded out whether customers are interested in a new electricity tariff from Tesla. Economics Minister Peter Altmaier and the top of the Union parliamentary group are said to have given him full support for his ventures in Germany. If the market entry into electricity sales succeeds, Musk could suddenly stir up top dogs like Eon or RWE. Musk critics will have to get used to it: the limits of the impossible can be shifted.

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