Official documents suggest so. If that is right, get used to Giga Criciúma.
Back on February 13, an article in the Brazilian media called our attention. It pointed to the possibility of a new Tesla Gigafactory in Brazil, but we did not have any elements that could confirm that. A new article published on February 18 presented more evidence, strong enough to give the first one the substance it needed. Well, Tesla may actually be planning to have a manufacturing presence in Latin America.
The first article said the Brazilian congressman Daniel Freitas had a conversation with Marcos Pontes, Minister of Science, Technology, Innovation, and Communications in Brazil. According to RevistaW3, Freitas would have identified a business opportunity with “one of the most valuable carmakers in the world,” and would have discussed a plan to take it to Brazil.
At the bottom of the article, we could see the source was the press relations department of the congressman. He made local headlines about a month ago for being accused of domestic violence, but the case was dismissed for lack of evidence. Presenting himself as the man that took Tesla to Brazil would probably help make people forget the dismissed accusations.
We decided to try to find anything that could confirm or deny the meeting he would have had with Pontes. That was when we discovered these images of a meeting Freitas and Pontes had on February 4. It was not the right one despite the same photos being used by RevistaW3 to illustrate its article.
The Twitter user CanalTeslaBrasil did the same and got in touch with the PR department of the congressman. It received the answer that the talks with Tesla had just started and were still confidential until further notice. OK…
But CanalTeslaBrasil got a tip with the second article we mentioned. It was published on February 18 by Engeplus.com and presented the official schedule of Pontes. We went to check it, and there it was, with no confidentiality of any sort in the names and circumstances.
According to the schedule – which can also be seen at the Ministry’s website – Pontes had a videoconference with Freitas, Claiton Pacheco Galdino, Business Development Director for a city called Criciúma, and Anderson Pacheco, a senior staff manufacturing engineering at Tesla.
We went for LinkedIn to confirm identities and job descriptions, and there they were. Anderson Ricardo Pacheco works at Sparks, Nevada, probably at the very first Gigafactory. He’s been with Tesla for more than four years and is a Master of Science. The Brazilian engineer graduated precisely on the state where Tesla would supposedly be considering for a Gigafactory in Brazil: Santa Catarina. Freitas also represents this state in the Brazilian Congress.
Claiton Pacheco Galdino helped us be even more specific in locating where this future Gigafactory could be. Criciúma is a relevant industrial city in the region, and it could probably offer Tesla an environment with plenty of suppliers and a port at less than 100 miles, the Imbituba port.
Brazil would never have a Giga São Paulo or a Giga Rio de Janeiro, as Germany will have Giga Berlin, and China already has Giga Shanghai. These Brazilian cities have cumbersome traffic environments and very high real estate prices. Getting in or out of these megalopolises can be a nightmare.
Government incentives are in less developed areas and smaller cities, such as Iracemápolis, where Daimler built a Mercedes-Benz factory, Itirapina (for Honda), or Araquari, also in Santa Catarina, where BMW has its Brazilian plant.
We have sent Pontes and Pacheco messages to learn more about Tesla’s plans if any. The article from RevistaW3 said the idea was to organize a presidential entourage to visit Fremont and present Brazil as the ideal production site for Tesla to have access to other Latin American countries. The Brazilian president, Jair Bolsonaro, used to be from the same party as the congressman.
Will these meetings turn into something concrete? It sure makes a lot of sense for Tesla to have a factory in Brazil, but there are tax issues that have to be solved to make that country more attractive to investments.
The guys from CanalTeslaBrasil have been asking Elon Musk for Tesla in Brazil for a long time. They would be happy solely with official sales there. Perhaps the company postponed that because it had bigger plans. Ready for Giga Criciúma? It could be worse: Giga Araquari, Giga Itirapina, Giga Iracemápolis...