Germany: Straßkirchen residents cast clear vote for BMW’s new high-voltage battery assembly site
The preliminary final results of the Straßkirchen referendum are in: A clear majority of Straßkirchen residents voted in favour of building the new BMW Group facility. With over 75 percent of the vote, the council’s “Yes to a BMW assembly plant for high-voltage batteries” motion was successful. Around 77 percent of the citizens voted. In the announced new battery assembly plant in Lower Bavaria, the car maker wants to assemble 600,000 high-voltage batteries for electric cars per year and supply its car plants in Munich, Dingolfing and Regensburg with them.
With this scope, the planned plant in Strasskirchen plays a decisive role in BMW’s future production network for electric cars. Due to its good connection to the vehicle plants, Strasskirchen is to become the central hub of battery assembly and logistics. If the referendum had gone against the project, BMW would have had to plan anew, which could have led to delays and thus to delayed market launches – and of course to additional costs. It is unclear whether BMW would have made another attempt in Bavaria (Dingolfing was initially also under discussion, but was rejected due to the complex situation with the land owners) or would have moved to the Czech Republic, for example.
After BMW secured the 105 hectares in the communities of Straßkirchen and Irlbach in February, local resistance arose. The referendum took place at the behest of the “Citizens’ Initiative for a Livable Gaeuboden”, which saw valuable farmland endangered by the construction of the plant. The critics were also concerned about the imminent delivery of up to 600,000 high-voltage batteries per year by lorry from the nearby motorways to the plant. In the run-up to the vote, polls had predicted a much closer outcome.
BMW warned of migration
“The people of Straßkirchen have voted for a joint future with the BMW Group. We are taking advantage here in Bavaria of the opportunities offered by the transformation towards electromobility,” said Milan Nedeljković, member of the Board of Management of BMW AG responsible for Production. The planned location will secure the future of the Bavarian vehicle plants in Dingolfing, Regensburg and Munich, he continued, by supplying them with the high-voltage batteries required for e-mobility.
“The clear vote in Straßkirchen shows that many residents support investment in future-oriented technologies and jobs,” said Ilka Horstmeier, member of the Board of Management of BMW AG responsible for Human Resources and Real Estate. “At the same time, we are seeing that, with positive new solutions, a transparent process and open discussion, reliable decisions can be made for a joint future. All in all, this, today, sends an important signal for Germany as a whole as a location for industry.” The initiative also acknowledged defeat to the “Passauer Neue Presse”.
Before the referendum, Horstmeier had warned of the consequences of a rejection. “Many companies will take a close look at whether people want investment in sustainable technologies and in sustainable jobs in Bavaria at all. This means that the citizens of Straßkirchen will also decide on the attractiveness of Bavaria as a business location,” the responsible board member was quoted as saying. “Once future technologies and jobs migrate, they won’t come back any time soon, and a downward spiral begins.”
According to BMW, the next step in the construction of the plant is scheduled for October, specifically the second public presentation of the plans. At that time, the numerous expert reports commissioned by the BMW Group on the effects of locating the plant will also be available.
Upon completion of the initial construction phase, the BMW Group plans to employ around 1,600 people at the future production site. About 70 percent will come from existing BMW Group locations; these employees will be able to share their know-how during construction of the new site. Around 7,500 BMW Group employees already live within a 20-kilometre radius of the planned location. In cooperation with Plant Dingolfing, the BMW Group will also offer about 50 apprenticeships at the planned site.
The BMW Group has already registered permanent establishments in the municipalities of Straßkirchen and Irlbach and has therefore been subject to business tax since August of this year – regardless of construction of the plant.