Mercedes-Benz Berlin plant boss to join Tesla, union says
FRANKFURT (Reuters) – The head of the Mercedes-Benz-run Berlin engine plant has defected to compete with Tesla, German union IG Metall said on Wednesday, calling on employees to protest his departure.
IG Metall declined to name the head of the plant, which was headed by Rene Reif, one of Mercedes-Benz’s most experienced manufacturing executives who helped expand Daimler’s manufacturing capacity in China.
Reif was responsible for engineering and manufacturing at Beijing’s Chinese joint venture Benz Automotive Co. Daimler, which has a manufacturing capacity of around 480,000 cars and began building the Mercedes-Benz EQC electric last year. .
Tesla declined to say if he had found a new manager for a Gigafactory being built on the outskirts of Berlin, but the electric automaker is on a global manufacturing expansion, building or expanding new factories in Texas, by Germany and China.
Last month, a source told Reuters that a Tesla official who had overseen the construction of the electric carmaker’s Gruenheide plant had quit his post.
Daimler said on Wednesday that Reif, 57, the manager of his Mercedes-Benz plant in Berlin, which makes powertrain, would take early retirement at the end of the year, at his own request.
German unions have lamented that traditional automakers are cutting investment in combustion engine technologies as regulators crack down on emissions and demand for vehicles is hit by the COVID-19 pandemic.
IG Metall said there would be a protest outside the Mercedes plant on Thursday and called on Daimler to present solutions that would help secure the plant’s future.
The union said Daimler executives have presented savings plans and union officials fear the future of the Berlin plant is in jeopardy.
Daimler said Clemenz Dobrawa, who currently runs the Mercedes-Benz battery manufacturing plant in Kamenz, took charge of the Mercedes-Benz plants in Hamburg and Berlin earlier this month.
“Through his activity as a representative at Kamenz, he brings important know-how for the transformation to electromobility,” said Daimler, adding that the Berlin plant would be restructured to serve an “Electric First” strategy.
(Reporting by Edward Taylor and Ilona Wissenbach. Editing by Jane Merriman)