Tesla Model S and Model X vehicles will soon hit the South Korean market as early as May, following an approval issued by the country’s Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport division. The nod to Tesla for certification is part of a larger South Korean government framework to create an eco-friendly car market, with goals to elevate air quality standards to western European levels within a decade.
Tesla will unveil both sales and Tesla service centers when it officially opens its doors inside South Korea’s largest shopping mall and at the famed Gangnam district, equivalent to the Rodeo drive of Seoul. Service centers will provide core maintenance functions and house charging stations. Any necessary exterior repairs to Teslas there will be handled by certified subcontractors.
Korea’s domestic hybrid and electric market sold a total of 68,774 cars last year, compared to 41,956 in 2015. This was the highest proportional rise worldwide, according to The Korea Herald. In December, South Korea’s Ministry of Trade, Industry, and Energy announced plans that it would increase the number of traditional gasoline-electric hybrids, plug-in electric hybrids, pure electric vehicles, and hydrogen fuel cell cars to 20 percent of all its national sales by the year 2020.
Much competition awaits Tesla in the South Korean EV market. Hyundai’s EV catalog there includes the Grandeur, Sonata, and Ionic brands as well as the Kia Niro. And the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, and Transport that completed Tesla’s registration is currently reviewing Chinese EV carmaker BYD’s application to enter the South Korean market, with expected approval next week.
Never to be daunted, Tesla will reveal its brand in a spectacular, four-story mall complex about six miles east of Seoul, at Starfield Hanam. Set in an idyllic location, beside an expansive lake and a sweeping mountainous backdrop, the recently opened Starfield Hanam atmosphere combines cultural, leisure, and entertainment facilities. The mall is close to nearby tourist hot-spots, connected to Seoul’s major freeway system, and is adjacent to the subway network. “South Korea’s first ‘shopping theme park’ is a new business model for the country, integrating the brick and mortar shopping experience with E-Mart distribution,” said Yong-Jin Chung, vice chairman of Shinsegae Group. “We carefully curated the selection of stores and services to benefit our customers and satisfy their diverse needs.”
South Korea will be Tesla’s fifth market in Asia after China, Hong Kong, Japan, and most recently Taiwan. Asia serves as a significant mechanism to establish the Tesla global brand. On-the-ground planning began last June, 2016, when Tesla’s website listed four new positions for sales and engineering in South Korea and one recruiter for the country, with base in Japan.
Seoul offers Tesla access to a population in the primary trade area of 3.5 million, a further 9.4 million in the secondary trade area, and a total of 25.6 million in greater Seoul. Last April, Tesla CEO Elon Musk expressed confidence that the South Korean market will help Tesla to expand its customer base, especially with the introduction of the new lower-priced Model 3 sedan.