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Tesla Halts Production in Germany After Suspected Arson Attack

Tesla was forced to halt production at its assembly plant outside Berlin early Tuesday after someone set fire to a nearby high-voltage pylon, causing a blaze that cut off electricity to the factory and surrounding region, the police said.

The Brandenburg police said they responded to the fire at a high-voltage power mast in a field near Tesla’s plant. The building was not damaged by the fire, but it caused the power to be cut at the plant and across the wider region, home to some 60,000 people.

Tesla did not respond to requests for comment, but a spokeswoman for the U.S. automaker confirmed to German media that production had been halted and all employees evacuated. Some 12,500 people work at the plant, according to Tesla, but not all of them would have been present at the time the power went down.

By early afternoon, residents reported said that power had been restored to some areas.

Authorities said that investigators from the Brandenburg state Office of Criminal Investigation had started an inquiry, but urged against speculation about who might be behind the arson, even as social media exploded with accusations blaming environmental activists.

Since last week, several dozen protesters have camped out in cabins and platforms built in the branches of trees in a forested area adjacent to the plant that Tesla would like to raze in order to build a rail yard, warehouses and educational facilities.

Last month, 65 percent of eligible voters in Grünheide, the community that surrounds the factory, cast ballots opposing Tesla’s expansion plans. 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.

Environmental protesters have said they fear that the state and local governments, which worked to lure Tesla to the site in 2022 and celebrated the economic benefits it has brought to the region, will override citizens’ wishes.

Brandenburg’s top security official, the interior minister Michael Stübgen, condemned the suspected arson. “If the initial findings are confirmed, this is a perfidious attack on our electricity infrastructure,” Mr. Stübgen said. “This will have consequences.”

Tesla’s assembly plant in Grünheide is the company’s only one in Europe. It has the capacity to build around 500,000 cars a year, but the company would like to double that, to 1 million cars per year — more than the 800,000 produced by Volkswagen at its long-established plant in Wolfsburg.

A leading Berlin daily newspaper, Tagesspiegel, said that a group calling itself “Vulkangruppe,” and identifying itself as being linked to the antifascist movement, had sent a letter to its newsroom claiming responsibility for the attack.

“Switch off for Tesla,” the letter said, according to the paper. A group of far-left extremists acting under the same name claimed responsibility for an attack in 2021 that cut off power to the construction site for the Tesla factory. That same year, security officials in the state of Brandenburg named the group in their annual report as having carried out several arson attacks in greater Berlin.

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Nathan is an experienced journalist. He's covered a broad spectrum of topics, including politics, culture, and human interest stories, always aiming to engage and inform his audience. Nathan has a degree in Journalism and upholds the highest standards of integrity and accuracy in his work.

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