Amidst fireworks, carnival games, music and futuristic technology, multi-billionaire Tesla CEO Elon Musk threw a grand invitation-only party for some 15,000 guests at the company's new billion-dollar-plus “Gigafactory” in Austin, capital of the US state of Texas.
“Cyber Rodeo at Giga Texas” was attended by invited guests and hosted by Musk to mark the grand opening and public unveiling of its USD 1.1 billion manufacturing facility in Travis County that also serves as the company's new corporate headquarters following its move from California.
According to a county-issued permit, the event included interactive tours, food, alcohol and live entertainment, but was off-limits to the general public and the media.
Musk said the plant, which would employ up to 10,000 workers, would build ITS Cybertruck, Semi, Model 3 and Model Y sport utility vehicles.
The guests at the private event witnessed Tesla cars in various stages of development and the robots to help them.
Speaking at the grand opening, Musk -- the world's wealthiest person with a current estimated net worth of about USD 280 billion as per the Forbes magazine --called the Austin facility "the largest factory building in the world by volume" and the "most advanced car factory the world has ever seen".
Musk praised the Tesla team that built the facility, and said "Thank you, Austin, and thank you, Travis County." He spoke as to how massive the new factory was, and teased products that were still in development, including the Cybertruck and a robotaxi that he promised would look futuristic. Musk promised the Cybertruck and Tesla Semi in 2023.
“It wasn’t easy building this humongous building and getting all this equipment here,” Musk said, sporting a large black cowboy hat and thanking Tesla’s neighbours in Travis County, as well as Tesla employees who helped build the plant.
“If you put the building on its side, it’s taller than the Burj Khalifa,” Musk said, a reference to the world’s tallest skyscraper in Dubai.
He joked that according to Tesla’s calculations, 194 billion hamsters could fit in the building that built battery cells. "We think, over time, this will be the biggest cell factory in the world," he stressed.
"Why Austin? California's great and we were continuing to expand there, but we ran out of room," Musk said. "We need a place where we can be really big, and there's no place like Texas."
Tesla has already started delivering to customers the first Tesla vehicles made in Texas, Musk said.
While Tesla and Musk had made clear in recent weeks that the "Cyber Rodeo" was an invitation-only event, that did not stop plenty of wanna-be-attendees from showing up on Thursday, hoping to somehow get in.
Dozens of Tesla fans and members of the media -- some of them from out of state, all without invites -- lined up along the edge of the company's property in Southeast Travis County.
Tesla built its Austin vehicle assembly plant in about two years from the ground up.
Its first US car plant in Fremont, California, had been jointly owned by GM and Toyota before Tesla adapted it to build its Model S sedan and Model X SUVs, its first mass-manufactured vehicles, and later its more affordable Model 3 and Model Y.
The Fremont factory is still operating, but Tesla aims to increase production of its Model Y electric vehicles and batteries in Austin, and to produce its unusual trapezoidal pickup, the Cybertruck, in Texas for customers in North America.
Last month, Tesla opened another "Gigafactory” on the outskirts of Berlin to produce the Model Y SUV.
The company’s Shanghai factory, which began vehicle production in late 2019, has been closed for days on end due to covid health restrictions in China's financial capital.