Mercedes-Benz Berlin plant head to join Tesla, union says

FRANKFURT, Nov 11 (Reuters) - The head of the Berlin engine plant run by Mercedes-Benz has defected to rival Tesla, German union IG Metall said on Wednesday, calling on employees to protest over his departure.

Tesla declined to comment on whether it had found a new manager for a Gigafactory being built on the outskirts of Berlin. Last month, a source told Reuters that Evan Horetsky, a Tesla manager who oversaw the construction of the electric carmaker’s Gruenheide plant, had left his position.

Daimler said on Wednesday that Rene Reif, the 57-year-old manager of its Mercedes-Benz Berlin plant, which makes powertrains, would go into early retirement at the end of the year, at his own request.

German unions have lamented the fact that traditional carmakers are throttling back investment into combustion engine technologies as regulators are clamp down on emissions and as demand for vehicles is hit by the COVID-19 pandemic.

IG Metall said there would be a protest in front of the Mercedes factory on Thursday and called on Daimler to present solutions that would help guarantee the future of the plant.

“We will make clear that we see the defection of the factory manager as a betrayal,” Jan Otto, head of IG Metall Berlin, said in a statement.

The union said Daimler managers had outlined cost savings plans and union officials fear the Berlin plant’s future is at risk.

Daimler said Clemenz Dobrawa, who currently heads up the Mercedes-Benz battery manufacturing plant in Kamenz, had taken over leadership of the Mercedes-Benz plants in Hamburg and Berlin earlier this month.

“Thanks to his activity as representative in Kamenz, he brings important know-how for the transformation toward electromobility,” Daimler said, adding the Berlin plant would be restructured to serve an ‘Electric First’ strategy.