The new Tesla mega-factory inaugurated in Texas

(Austin) Invitations by the thousands, a boss adored by his fans and a nightclub setting: the inauguration of the new Tesla factory in Austin on Thursday looked like a star concert, in the now established tradition of Elon Musk, who celebrates the extraordinary growth of his company and his establishment in Texas, far from the Californian culture.

Updated April 8

François PICARD with Julie JAMMOT in San Francisco
France Media Agency

Cowboy hat and dark glasses, the whimsical billionaire arrived on stage in a convertible in front of a forest of smart phones, to the sound of a piece of rap, to the cheers of the crowd. The live webcast even showed the face of a young woman wiping away a tear of emotion.

The event was planned to welcome up to 15,000 people, by invitation only, with, on the program, entertainment, barbecue, open bar, tattoos, music groups, fireworks…

Called “Giga Texas”, the plant covers an area equivalent to a hundred football fields. Operational since the end of 2021, it is Tesla’s fifth “mega-factory”, after those in Nevada, New York, Shanghai and Berlin.

The building is “longer than the Burj Khalifa”, assured Elon Musk, in reference to the tallest skyscraper in the world, located in Dubai. “It is the most sophisticated automobile factory ever seen on earth,” he added. “Materials go in one side, cars come out the other”.

He reviewed the premium electric vehicle brand’s future products, such as the Cybertruck pickup, which is due to start production in 2023, or the humanoid robot Optimus, which “will do what humans don’t want to do”. .

“We’re going to make sure it doesn’t behave like Terminator,” he joked, referring to a sci-fi movie with a killer robot.

The entrepreneur has also again promised a completely autonomous “robot-taxi”.

“A great day for Texas”

In the immediate future, he has set a goal for the factory to produce 500,000 Model Ys per year.

“Tesla has a rich man problem: demand is outstripping supply to the point that Model Ys and some Model 3s are shipping 5-6 months late in some parts of the world,” said analyst Dan Ives of Wedbush Securities. . “The solution lies mainly in Austin and Berlin.”

Like Oracle, Hewlett Packard Enterprise and other California companies that have set their sights on Texas in recent years, Elon Musk moved Tesla’s headquarters to Austin in late 2021.

“It’s a great day for Texas,” said Courtlan Ross, an Austin native and real estate investor who is looking forward to rising property prices, thanks to the influx of tech companies in his state. .

The opening of the factory is a “good thing”, also judges Davis Galassini, a young analyst. “I’m more of an Elon Musk fan. And I think it will bring lots of jobs”.

Other residents, however, are concerned about the influx of Californian start-ups. “It’s very recent. Austin used to be a small provincial town, but it’s different now, it’s become huge,” remarks David Delarosa, a 28-year-old stay-at-home dad.

“Identity Crisis”

Texas is known for its conservative policies-it made headlines recently for passing a particularly restrictive abortion law-and for its tax incentives: there are no corporate or income taxes. .

According to the Austin American-Statesman, Tesla received tax exemptions valued at more than $60 million to build its mega-factory, which is expected to eventually employ 10,000 people.

Texas is also synonymous with oil and big, polluting cars. “I think Elon Musk is having a bit of an identity crisis. He forgot who his clients were,” comments independent analyst Rob Enderle.

But the South African entrepreneur, who has become the richest man in the world, has trouble with California and Silicon Valley, where he founded Tesla in 2003.

In February, the state Democrat filed a lawsuit against the Fremont plant for racial discrimination. The site is also known for failed unionization attempts.

And in May 2020, at the start of the pandemic, when the authorities refused to immediately reopen this same factory because of health measures, Elon Musk challenged them to come and “stop” him.

The county of Hidalgo, in southern Texas, had jumped at the chance, offering to come and set up its activities on its territory. But it is that of Travis, in the suburbs of attractive-and-Democrat-Austin, who has won the favor of the very courted businessman.

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