Most Influential Projects 2020

12 Tesla Gigafactory Shanghai

50 MIP 12 Tesla Gigafactory Shanghai

For setting up the first foreign-owned auto factory in China at warp speed

Tesla’s cars are fast, but they’ve got nothing on the team that built the electric carmaker’s factory in Shanghai, China—the company’s first gigafactory outside of the United States. The team completed the US$2 billion project at record speed, moving from permitting to final electrical work in just 168 working days.

The feat made Tesla a Chinese unicorn: It’s the first foreign company to wholly own a car manufacturing plant in the country. Previously, the government required foreign manufacturers to create a joint venture with a local company or shoulder a 25 percent tax on imports.

The plant officially opened in December 2019 to great fanfare, complete with an employee wedding proposal and a display event of the first Model 3 electric cars. Although it was forced to close down on 29 January due to the coronavirus, the plant was back in business on 10 February, and Tesla said on an earnings call that the Shanghai outlet already boasts an annual capacity of 150,000 cars.

Soon after came word from China’s Global Times that Tesla had completed the main building in the Shanghai factory’s second phase focused on production of Model Y cars. That was less than five months after the company had launched the expansion project, coronavirus be damned.

The project signals ambition at Tesla that goes beyond China. CEO Elon Musk has described the Shanghai factory as the automaker’s “template for future growth.” In late May, Tesla broke ground on a gigafactory in Berlin, Germany, and a visit by Musk to England that same month sparked rumors about a gigafactory popping up there.

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