Tesla's German factory will restart next week, the head of the works council says

(This March 8 story has been corrected to change weekly production capacity to 6,000 cars in paragraph 7)

Written by Oliver Barth

GRUNHEIDE, Germany (Reuters) – Tesla's German factory near Berlin will resume operations next week, after a power outage halted production, the head of the company's works board said on Friday.

Tesla's electric vehicle (EV) factory has been closed since March 5 following a fire at a nearby power pole, which police are investigating as an arson attack.

German police said they believe the message from a far-left organization called the “Volcano Group” claiming responsibility for the fire is authentic.

“We will restart the factory next week,” Michaela Schmitz told a crowd of several hundred workers at the electric vehicle production site, known as the Gigafactory.

Some were carrying a sign that read, “We will not close our doors!”

“Along with many chapters of notable achievements, this attack will go down as a dark chapter in our history,” Schmitz said. “But this, too, will not stop us.”

The attack has left the site's 12,500 employees in limbo and means the US electric car maker is unable to produce around 6,000 vehicles per week, resulting in losses expected to amount to at least several hundred million euros.

Tesla's factory in Gruenheide has for years been the subject of criticism from some local residents and activists, who are concerned about its environmental impact.

Schmitz said Tesla employees would receive information about the restart soon, but he did not provide any other details about the possible timing.

“Colleagues have been condemned to sit at home, instead of successfully contributing together to the energy transition,” added Schmitz.

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Tesla previously said that the factory may remain without electricity until the end of next week.

The German Federal Prosecutor's Office said on Friday that it had taken over the investigation into the arson attack, and was considering charges of terrorism and “unconstitutional sabotage.”

(Reporting by Oliver Barth; Writing by Ludwig Berger; Editing by Alexander Smith and Kirsten Donovan)

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