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Tesla Halts Production in Germany After Suspected Arson

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 police in Brandenburg, the state where the plant is, said they responded to the early-morning fire at a high-voltage power mast in a field near Tesla’s plant. The fire did not damage the building, but it caused 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, power throughout most of the region had been restored, the local electricity provider Edis said. Only Tesla and a nearby warehouse remained offline, it said. Handelsblatt, the German newspaper, citing an internal letter from leaders at the factory to Tesla employees, said it would remain offline until the end of the week.

Hours after the fire was discovered, a group calling itself Vulkangruppe and linking itself to the antifascist movement published an open letter on a site widely used by left-wing activists, claiming responsibility for the attack.

“Switch off for Tesla,” the letter read. “A Tesla is a status symbol, statement and propaganda at the same time: for contempt for humanity, boundless destruction through ‘progress’ and an imperial, patriarchal way of life.”

Authorities said investigators from the state Office of Criminal Investigation had started an inquiry. “If the initial findings are confirmed, this is a perfidious attack on our electricity infrastructure,” said Michael Stübgen, Brandenburg’s interior minister and top security official. “This will have consequences.”

Elon Musk, Tesla’s chief executive, said on X, the social media site he owns, that the attackers were “either the dumbest eco-terrorists on Earth” or “puppets of those who don’t have good environmental goals.”

He added that “stopping production of electric vehicles, rather than fossil fuel vehicles, ist extrem dumm,” using the German phrase for “extremely dumb.”

Since last week, several dozen protesters have camped out in cabins and platforms built in the trees of a forested area adjacent to the plant that Tesla would like to raze in order to build a rail yard, warehouses and educational facilities. Groups involved with the forest protest distanced themselves from the attack.

The incident was the latest headache for the automaker in Europe. For months, Tesla has been locked in a standoff with unions in Sweden that has impeded its ability to service and deliver vehicles in the country. In Germany, environmental and local citizen groups concerned about the pollution and potential damage to drinking water have kept up regular protests against Tesla since it opened the plant two years ago.

A group of far-left activists acting under the same name as the group claiming responsibility for Tuesday’s fire was also behind an attack in 2021 that cut off power to the construction site for the Tesla factory. That same year, security officials in Brandenburg named the group as having carried out several arson attacks in greater Berlin.

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.

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 one million cars per year — more than the 800,000 produced by Volkswagen at its long-established plant in Wolfsburg.

Tesla’s shares have come under pressure, losing about a quarter of their value this year as electric-vehicle sales have slowed. Sales in China, a crucial market for Tesla, dropped sharply last month, leading to the latest sell-off in the company’s stock.