Tesla has reportedly submitted a letter to Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, stating that it would reduce its presence in the country if previous tax credits for electric car buyers are not reinstated. The removal of a full registration tax waiver on electric vehicles was implemented last year by the HK government, causing a significant drop in electric car sales in the region of China.
Without the tax credits in place, electric vehicle prices have shot up by 50 to 80 percent in Hong Kong. Tax relief was also capped at HK$97,500 (US$12,466.35). These changes have ultimately caused the prices of vehicles like the Tesla Model S to increase significantly.
Since the tax credits were pulled out, Hong Kong saw a steep decline in the number of new EV registrations. In April 2017, the first month following the removal of the tax waivers, no registrations for electric cars was filed, causing companies such as Tesla to take heavy blows in sales. Tesla for one, only sold 32 Model S and Model X from April to December 2017, a massive decline from the 2,078 Model S and Model X it sold from April to December 2016.
In a statement to the South China Morning Post, an anonymous source claiming to have knowledge of the matter stated that Tesla is attempting to push back against the HK government. According to the source, the Silicon Valley-based electric car maker and energy firm is urging Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor to rethink the country’s position in the EV tax waiver issue. If the government does not budge, Tesla would reportedly begin scaling back its operations.
“Scaling down Tesla’s operation in Hong Kong is a natural and logical consequence if the number of customers has dwindled prompted by a reduction of government incentives. Without government support, who is willing to invest in green technology?” the source said, according to the Post.
While Hong Kong has maintained that the removal of the EV tax credits was due to traffic congestion and the fact that the majority of electric car owners were members of the upper class, critics of the government have speculated that the state had simply backed down amid pressure from legacy car makers. The Asia-based publication appears to have confirmed this recently, with another anonymous source from the local car industry stating that Tesla had simply gotten too successful in Hong Kong.
“The sale of Tesla cars in one month was equal to the annual sales figure of some petrol car brands. They all complained that the rapid growth of Tesla these few years had made their lives really difficult,” the source said.
Prior to the removal of the tax credits on electric vehicles, Hong Kong was one of the leaders in the electric car revolution in Asia, thanks in no small part to Tesla’s entry into the country. In a statement back in 2016, Tesla CEO Elon Musk expressed his optimism about Hong Kong being a leader in emissions-free transportation, calling Hong Kong a “Beacon City” for electric vehicles.
Musk’s statement definitely rang true, with electric car sales in the country experiencing a surge that saw registrations reach well into the thousands every year. By the time the Hong Kong government decided to discontinue the EV tax credits last year, there were 10,589 registered private electric cars in the region, with 2,964 of the registrations being filed in March 2017, the month right before the waivers were discontinued. A significant number of the country’s electric cars were Tesla Model S and Model X.
Below is a video of Tesla CEO Elon Musk speaking at a special event in Hong Kong in 2016.