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Tesla sabotage in Germany: Who is the Volcano Group?

Thomas Latschan
March 6, 2024

An arson attack has shut down operations in Tesla's so-called Gigafactory in Germany. The far-left Volcano Group has claimed responsibility. What do we know about them?

Tesla cars at the opening of the German plant in 2022
Tesla production was halted on Tuesday after the power outageImage: Christian Marquardt/Getty Images

On Tuesday morning, around 4:50 a.m., an electricity pylon in the German state of Brandenburg went up in flames. Old tires piled around the mast suggested it was a deliberate case of arson. Seconds later, electricity to surrounding villages was cut off, affecting thousands of households.

The cuts also affected Tesla's so-called Gigafactory in the nearby area of Grünheide. The car factory is meant to manufacture 750 e-cars a day, but following the outage, some 12,000 workers were evacuated as production came to a stillstand.

Tesla stated it did not expect production to resume this week and estimated the damages to be around "several hundred million euros."

Environmental group claims responsibility

Shortly after, an organization known as the Volcano Group (Vulkangruppe) claimed responsibility for the fire online.

"We sabotaged Tesla today," the far-left environmental group stated in an open letter that also accused Tesla CEO Elon Musk of being a "techno-fascist."

The letter went on to criticize Tesla's implications in driving predatory capitalism, worker exploitation, environmental degradation and modern surveillance technology, which is why. The stated goal was to "bring Tesla to its knees."

Not much is known about the so-called Volcano Group, other than that it is considered far-left and anarchical. The letter also indicated anti-patriarchal motives when it called the arson attack a "present for March 8," which is International Women's Day.

Authorities have confirmed that the content, style and structure of the letter are similar to several other letters claiming responsibility for attacks in the past years. This might indicate the same people behind the different attacks, suggesting the group has stable structures and long-term members.

Targeting communication and electricity lines

The Berlin police said the group appears to have been active since 2011, mostly in the states of Berlin and Brandenburg. They added that most attacks targeted communication and data lines, electricity pylons and company vehicles. No people had been injured so far, according to the police report.

The same report also indicated the group aimed to expose the vulnerability of urban mobility and communication infrastructure, as well as disrupt public order and cause considerable property damage.

How new Gigafactories are staining Tesla's brand

In 2018, the far-left group destroyed power lines in Berlin's Charlottenburg district in what was likely its largest attack until now. The resulting power outage affected 6,500 homes and left 400 businesses unable to operate for hours. Damages were estimated at around several thousand euros.

Tesla's plant in Grünheide has also been targeted before. In 2021, when the factory was still under construction, nearby power cables were set on fire.

Musk mocks environmental group

German politicians have condemned the suspected arson. German Interior Minister Nancy Faeser called it a "serious crime that cannot be justified by anything."

"If a left-wing extremist motive is confirmed, then this is further proof that the left-wing extremist scene does not shy away from attacks on critical energy infrastructures," the minister said in a written statement.

Musk turned to his social media platform X, formerly Twitter, to criticize the group, writing that "these are either the dumbest eco-terrorists on Earth or they're puppets of those who don't have good environmental goals."

Police are investigating the group for premeditated arson, but so far have not opened any probes into terrorist links.

Controversial car factory

Tesla's factory just outside of Berlin was a controversial project from its inception. The plant was built partly in a water protection zone, which nearby residents and environmental activists have criticized in numerous protests.

Now, the plant is set to expand, leading many activists and residents fearing for the water quality in the region. Tesla has dismissed concerns.

Two environmental groups, Robin Wood and Stop Tesla, are currently occupying parts of the forest that would be cut down should Tesla's expansion plans move forward. Both have distanced themselves from the suspected arson attack on Tuesday.

This article was translated from German.