Tesla adds hard-core German engineering to its ‘Alien Dreadnought’

Machines work inside Tesla's automobile assembly plant in Fremont, Calif.
(Russ Mitchell / Los Angeles Times)

Elon Musk’s “Alien Dreadnought” is bringing a German crew on board.

Tesla, the electric car company based in Palo Alto, announced Tuesday that it will buy Grohmann Engineering, based in Prum, Germany, to be renamed Tesla Grohmann Automation.

Grohmann, founded by Chief Executive Klaus Grohman, is a highly regarded supplier of factory automation systems in industries ranging from automobiles to microelectronics. It has outposts around the world, including offices in Charlotte, N.C. and Chandler, Ariz.


The German company employs about 700 people. Tesla said it expects to add more than 1,000 “advanced engineering and technician jobs” in Germany over the next two years.

The purchase, for an undisclosed price, fuels Musk’s ambitions to set new standards in high-volume production and factory automation. Employing armies of robots and infusing his factories with the latest in artificial intelligence technologies, he aims to build “the machine that builds the machine” — or, as he’s been calling it lately, the “Alien Dreadnought.”

Drama aside, Tesla is on a major expansion-and-hiring spree. Grohmann will help Tesla engineer its factories and production lines and supply hard-to-find technical workers.

Geography also plays a role. The European market is important to Tesla, and the deal makes it an indigenous player in Germany, allowing it to form deeper relationships with European customers, suppliers, regulators and politicians.

Tesla said Grohmann will serve as “the initial base” for something it’s calling Tesla Advanced Automation Germany, “with other locations to follow.”

Tesla offered no further details, but could use Grohmann to expand into the broader industrial market with factory automation products and services.

Tesla plans to turn out 500,000 cars in 2018 at its Fremont, Calif., assembly plant, driven mostly by its new Model 3 mass-market sedan. It’s building a $5-billion battery plant in Nevada. And, if shareholders approve the deal on Nov. 17, it will merge with SolarCity and get into the business of turning out solar-energy roofs for homes and businesses.

Karl Brauer, analyst at Kelley Blue Book, called the Grohmann deal “a good step in addressing Tesla’s volume aspirations” but added that “Tesla will need to tackle problems … from quality to sales to post-sale support” to succeed with the Model 3.

Twitter: @russ1mitchell