Let Tesla Expand? Germans Vote No.

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Residents in the German community where Tesla has its only assembly plant in Europe overwhelming rejected the company’s plan to expand its facilities, dealing a blow to the U.S. automaker and local supporters.

Sixty-five percent of citizens in Grünheide who voted opted against Tesla’s proposal to clear 250 acres of forest near its plant to build a rail yard, warehouses and a day care center. The vote was nonbinding, but local officials said they would honor it by heading back to the drawing board to try to find an acceptable solution.

“That is the big challenge for the community,” Arne Christiani, the mayor of Grünheide and a supporter of the expansion, told public broadcaster Inforadio rbb on Wednesday.

Tesla did not respond to repeated requests for comment. But the company defended its plans in local media, while acknowledging “that the citizens of Grünheide have concerns in connection with the planned expansion of the site.”

Tesla’s plant in Grünheide, Germany.Credit…Katrin Streicher for The New York Times

Why It Matters: A factory that has divided a town.

Tesla’s decision to settle in Grünheide, which is in the state of Brandenburg, and the speed with which the factory was built — 861 days — has been a point of pride for local politicians in a country known for its onerous permitting processes.

The factory, which opened two years ago, has also become an important driver of growth in the state, long one of the most economically challenged in Germany. Brandenburg recorded economic growth of 6 percent in the first half of 2023, largely driven by the 11,000 jobs at the plant and dozens of suppliers that have sprung up around it.

But many local residents contend the plant has disrupted a quality of life that drew them to Grünheide, and say it threatens the air and water quality.

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