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Tesla Takes Legal Action Against Sweden Over License Plate Delivery Disruption Amidst Labor Strike

JESSICA GOW/TT via Getty Images

On Monday, Tesla filed a lawsuit against Sweden’s transportation agency and postal service due to a union strike obstructing the delivery of license plates in the country. The workers engaged in the strike are demanding that the non-unionized automaker enter into a collective bargaining agreement, a standard practice considered “the backbone of the Swedish model” by the mechanics’ union IF Metall. Despite the ongoing strike, the Swedish Transport Agency claims to have received an interim decision from a district court, instructing it to either consent to Tesla’s request to collect license plates within seven days or face significant fines. The agency is currently assessing the implications of this decision on the standoff.

Tesla, which delivered over 9,000 electric vehicles to Swedish customers in 2022, characterized the actions of the Swedish Transport Agency as a “unique attack” on the U.S. company, according to The Associated Press. In response, Tesla’s lawsuit is seeking a 1 million kronor (US$95,803) fine for the Swedish Transport Agency and permission for Tesla to retrieve the held-up license plates. The delay in registrations stems from workers at the state-owned postal service PostNord ceasing the supply of plates to Tesla as their employees joined the strike.

The alleged lawsuit contends that the Swedish Transport Agency declined Tesla’s request to retrieve the license plates itself or, as an alternative, deliver them through an alternative channel. According to Reuters, Tesla has reportedly filed two lawsuits—one against the Swedish Transport Agency and another against PostNord.

Swedish Transport Agency spokesperson Ann-Sofie Masth confirmed the lawsuit and shared details of the court’s interim decision in a statement to Engadget. “The Swedish Transport Agency has now received an interim decision from the Norrköping district court to consent within 7 days to Tesla collecting license plates directly from our sign manufacturer,” Masth stated. She added that the sign manufacturer is prepared to provide the signs directly to Tesla, contingent on approval from the Swedish Transport Agency. The agency is currently analyzing the decision to determine its implications and considering the necessary measures to implement it. Masth emphasized that it is too early to specify the exact implications at this stage.


Tesla, a company not known for being union-friendly, maintains a policy against entering into collective bargaining agreements, asserting that its employees already enjoy terms equal to or better than those proposed by unions. This argument, suggesting that the company’s care for its employees negates the necessity for a union, echoes sentiments expressed by Tesla CEO Elon Musk in 2017 when faced with allegations of poor working conditions and low pay at the company’s Fremont, CA factory.

Sweden’s prominent manufacturing union, IF Metall, initiated a strike on October 27. Despite Tesla lacking a manufacturing plant in the country, its service centers, responsible for working on Tesla vehicles, ceased operations due to the strike. Various other unions in the Nordic nation, encompassing dockworkers, cleaners, and electricians, have joined the strike in a show of solidarity. Furthermore, a component maker joined the unions on Friday as a gesture of sympathy.

In Tesla’s legal submission, the company characterized the court decision as “a distinctive attack on a business operating in Sweden,” contending that the denial of license plate delivery would impact “a substantial number of consumers who have ordered a new car from Tesla.”

An IF Metall representative, responding to The AP, stated, “We are taking this action to protect the interests of our members and to ensure they have secure working conditions.” A spokesperson for the Swedish Transport Agency, as reported by Reuters, conveyed a differing perspective: “We at the Swedish Transport Agency do not share this view, and therefore Tesla has chosen to bring the matter to court, exercising their right to do so.”

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