Tesla faces labor dispute at key German robotics factory

Even as Tesla delights equity traders on Wall Street, the company faces unrest with blood-and-sweat investors — its workers.

German labor union IG Metall has threatened to strike over wages at Tesla Grohmann Automation, a recently acquired robotics company. A German union official told the Wall Street Journal workers wanted higher wages, citing pay 30 percent below union rates.

Tesla disputed the charge, saying workers were given a bonus and vesting stock options. The company also said it did not expect the labor dispute to slow the timeline for the Model 3, a lower-cost electric sedan starting at $35,000 and expected to be released this year.

Tesla acquired Grohmann in November, calling the strategic purchase a key to engineering high-volume, highly automated factories to produce high volumes of vehicles. The Silicon Valley automaker hopes to produce a half-million sedans and SUVs at its Fremont factory next year. Producing hundreds of thousands of Model 3s every year is vital to the company’s long-term plans.

Tesla is also facing complaints from U.S. employees seeking to organize through the United Automobile Workers. Several production line employees have come forward recently, saying company policies discourage workers from discussing safety and workplace issues.

In other Tesla news, the company did pick up an endorsement from AAA. The auto club’s survey released Tuesday found almost as many U.S. drivers planned to buy an electric vehicle for their next car as planned to buy a pickup.

“Consumer interest in electric vehicles remains high, with more than 30 million Americans likely to buy an electric vehicle for their next car,” said John Moreno, spokesperson for AAA Northern California. “Given their compatibility with emerging autonomous technologies, electric vehicles are poised to be a key vehicle of the future.”

The survey found that about 70 percent of new car buyers considered fuel economy a major consideration in their purchase.

The club’s Southern California research center named the Tesla Model X 75D its best overall green vehicle in 2017 and the Model S 60 its best large car. AAA also praised the Chevy Bolt, Volkswagen e-Golf SE and Lexus GS 450h F Sport as top green-car picks.

Photo: One of the many Kuka robots used in car assembly was on display at the Tesla factory in Fremont, Calif. on Saturday, October 1, 2011.  (Jim Gensheimer/Mercury News)



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