The timing could hardly be worse. Elon Musk wants to recruit thousands of new skilled workers and engineers to start at the Tesla factory in Grünheide – and then that. In an interview, the boss of the electric car manufacturer describes his new factories in Austin, Texas, and Brandenburg as “gigantic money ovens”. , in which his capital bursts into flames. That doesn’t make me want to apply to Musk.

But how big is the danger for Grünheide really? Should the 5,000 people who have already signed up there worry? And what about the Tesla company as a whole?

E-mobility, transport policy and future mobility: the briefing on transport and smart mobility. For decision makers

First you have to know: The interview was recorded on May 31 in the USA, but the sensitive statements were only made public on Wednesday. Anyone who knows Musk knows that the electric car pioneer acts quickly and unconventionally. It is therefore quite possible that he has already managed to remedy the situation somewhat in the meantime.

In addition, the situation in Grünheide is at least more relaxed than in Austin. The reason: Tesla is installing the new 4680 battery cells in Texas. And they have technical problems that are preventing production from ramping up. In Brandenburg, on the other hand, the older cell type 2170 is still installed. Austin would be happy with that less powerful battery now, but the tools to convert to those cells are “stuck at a port in China,” Musk explains.

Brandenburg’s Economics Minister Jörg Steinbach can calm things down. In Grünheide, “recruitment is being pushed ahead unchecked”. But things are not progressing as dynamically as he and Musk would like. There are solid reasons for this: IG Metall has pointed out that Tesla pays up to 20 percent less than its competitors in the region who adhere to collective agreements. In order to actually have 12,000 people on board by the end of the year, Tesla will “have to step up a notch,” the union expects. But then the forces already hired would feel unfairly treated.

Musk, who supports the Republicans in the USA, has an allergic reaction to employee representatives. That’s why he wants to implement a works council in Grünheide, too, which consists only of executives whose loyalty is primarily to the boss. In America, the South African Musk is even more ruthless: in Texas he fired more than 500 employees: inside and didn’t stop there Take a look at the lax American labor law.

He dismissed the class action lawsuit by those affected as “trivial”. In 2022, such corporate governance is more timely than ever. Workers no longer put up with such treatment, and thanks to demographic change, they don’t have to.

In addition, Musk’s products aren’t that hip anymore either. Yes, he was a pioneer of e-mobility, and he had a head start with software for a long time. But today its two large models, the S and X, are almost unsellable. And with the smaller Model 3 and Y vehicles, facelifts and software updates will soon no longer be enough to keep completely newly designed cars from Mercedes, BMW or VW at a distance. In China, too, local competition is putting Tesla under pressure.

When it comes to autonomous driving, Musk has never been able to keep his promises. Even its simple assistance systems ensure serious accidents. And now Tesla is in danger of being left behind by the competition because it used the wrong technology. It is quite possible that the richest man in the world will have to get used to the sound of burning money.