Tesla’s German factory becomes site for ‘Giga-Fest’

BERLIN — From flashing lights and booming speakers to sprawling stages and a Ferris wheel, Tesla’s factory near Berlin has been transformed into a festival site for a one-day county fair on Saturday, hosted by CEO Elon Musk.

The fair is expected to attract tens of thousands of visitors with Brandenburg locals given priority. Bands and DJs will “keep the party going” late into the night, according to the official event website.

“Giga Berlin-Brandenburg fun party today!” Musk tweeted in German shortly after it began, and then joked with a Twitter follower who replied to correct his German.

Musk is hoping to get approval to start production at the site in coming weeks, which at its peak will produce 500,000 full-electric vehicles a year — more than double Germany’s production of full EVs in 2020.

The company has also submitted plans to invest 5 billion euros ($5.8 billion) in a battery plant with 50 Gigawatt hours capacity next to the site, outstripping Volkswagen’s planned 40 GWh capacity site in Salzgitter, Germany.

Tesla has repeatedly reminded critics that the site will bring Germany significantly closer to achieving its e-mobility goals, but some locals and environmental groups are unhappy with Musk’s disruptive approach which they say flies in the face of German business culture.

The latest consultation of public concerns towards the site closes on Oct. 14, after which the environmental ministry will decide whether to reject or approve it. Brandenburg’s economy minister has pinned chances of approval at 95 percent.

Drone footage published on Twitter in the 24 hours before the fair was due to start showed preparations were well under way, with sound checks of booming techno beats, lighting tests and festival tents set up next to rows of Tesla cars.

Visitors attending the event posted videos from tours of the factory showing production line robots giving choreographed displays. Others highlighted the electric buses on which they were taken to the festival site.

Tesla received approval from local authorities to have 9,000 people on site at a time despite pandemic-related curbs limiting large gatherings to 5,000, after it presented a plan for how it would keep the event COVID safe, authorities said.

Attendees were given a time-slot for a 1.5-hour tour of the factory, and had to provide proof of a negative COVID-test, vaccination or recovery, according to the entry ticket.

“We invite you to discover our factory from along our production lines. You’ll have the chance to see how tons of raw metal are melted, pressed and put together to build our Model Y,” the ticket reads.

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