BERLIN -- Tesla hopes to make the first cars at its new factory in Gruenheide, near Berlin, in October or soon afterwards, CEO Elon Musk said.
Tesla has pushed back the expected opening of its first European plant to late 2021, blaming German bureaucratic hurdles. The factory has also faced local public resistance due to environmental concerns.
"We're looking forward to hopefully getting the approval to make the first cars maybe in October if we are fortunate," Musk said on Friday during a visit to the factory with Armin Laschet, Germany's conservative candidate to succeed Angela Merkel as chancellor.
The environmental agency in Brandenburg has yet to give final approval, meaning a further delay cannot be ruled out, even until 2022.
Musk laughed off a reporter’s question about whether the factory under construction will deplete the area’s water supply.
“This region has so much water -- look around you,” Musk said, breaking out in laughter during his visit to the site. “No, no, this is completely wrong. It’s like water everywhere here. Does this seem like a desert to you? It’s ridiculous. It rains a lot.”
Musk later tweeted he was inviting locals and the wider community to a tour of the plant.
"Giga Berlin-Brandenburg county fair & factory tour on 9 October!" he tweeted. "Priority for residents of Brandenburg & Berlin, but also open to general public."
Water supplies are among the issues environmentalists have raised in objecting to the car and battery plant that has fallen months behind schedule. Tesla started cutting down trees to clear a space equivalent to 100 soccer fields early last year and is constructing the facility on top of the water table in the small town of Gruenheide.
Tesla released an annual impact report earlier this week in which it flagged concerns water is becoming increasingly scarce due to climate change. The company claimed it withdraws less of the resource per vehicle produced than the majority of established automakers at facilities dedicated to vehicle manufacturing.
“The efficient manufacturing design we are implementing at our new factories in Texas and Berlin-Brandenburg will result in further reductions in our water usage per vehicle,” the company said. “Our goal is to have industry-leading low water usage per vehicle, even when accounting for cell manufacturing.”
Laschet, whose personal approval ratings have dropped ahead of a Sept. 26 federal election after he was seen laughing on a visit to a flood-stricken town, said Germany needed to cut red tape.
"Sometimes one has the impression that inventing something new is technologically easier than dismantling bureaucracy in Germany," Laschet told reporters, standing side-by-side with Musk.
Asked if he had any tips for Laschet to help energize his election campaign, Musk replied: "We are adding energy right now. This plant is all about energy, green energy that is sustainable."
"Hopefully ... this factory here can serve as an inspiration to people in Germany and throughout Europe for excitement about the future," Musk added.
Musk called for a periodic review of regulations at local, state, and federal level in Germany, and at the EU level, to determine if they are a net benefit.
With evermore rules, he warned, "eventually people will not be able to do anything at all."
"It cannot always be about problems every day. Do you want to wake up every morning and everything is just a problem? Musk asked. "(I want) people to be inspired about the future, and do not forget to have children - that is important."
The entrepreneur's girlfriend, pop singer Grimes, last year gave birth to the couple's son who they named X AE A-XII.
Reuters and Bloomberg contributed to this report