Tesla risks losing subsidies in South Korea after Model 3 dominates local EV market

A Tesla Model 3 driving at night. (Photo: Andres GE)

Tesla may be building some serious momentum in South Korea, but it appears that efforts may be underway that could become a roadblock for the American electric car maker. In an announcement on Sunday, the South Korean government stated that it intends to recalibrate its EV subsidy program, which could very well disqualify Tesla’s vehicles from qualifying for the country’s generous incentives. 

Interestingly enough, the government’s recent announcement comes after Tesla dominated the country’s electric vehicle market this year. As noted in a report from The Korea Herald, nearly half of the subsidies granted by the government from January to June 2020 were for Teslas. Thanks to strong sales of its vehicles, especially the Model 3 sedan, Tesla ended up devouring 43% of South Korea’s total EV subsidies for the first half of the year.  

With this initiative in mind, the Minister of Environment is expected to revise its existing calculation system for electric vehicle subsidies by October following discussions with municipalities, related experts, and concerned associations. These revisions are expected to remove premium EV brands from qualifying for the government incentives, such as Tesla.

To discuss the upcoming revisions to the country’s EV subsidy program, the ministry has stated that it will be holding a meeting on Monday with 11 automakers, including Hyundai Motor and Kia Motors, two of South Korea’s most prominent carmakers. Choi Jong-won, head of Air Quality Policy Bureau of the Ministry of Environment, spoke about electric cars and their role in the country’s “Green New Deal,” President Moon Jae-in’s green growth program. 

“For our ‘Green New Deal’ initiative to yield results, it’s crucial for EVs to be deployed without any setback. The ministry will consult and collaborate closely with related businesses and groups in the industry,” Choi said. 

When Tesla announced that it was formally launching the Model 3 last year, it became evident that buyers of the Model 3 Standard Range Plus could get as much as $16,500 off the electric sedan’s $43,000 starting price in the country, thanks to incentives from the national and provincial governments. This gave the vehicle a price that could be adjusted to as low as $27,000 per unit. That’s quite a deal for a premium all-electric car that has basic Autopilot installed. 

The Tesla Model 3 has since become the most-imported electric car in South Korea, with data from the Korea Automobile Manufacturer Association, along with the Korea Automobile Importers & Distributors Association, revealing a 40.1% surge in electric car sales from January to April, and much of this is due to the Model 3. In a later report last month, the KAMA noted that Tesla’s annual sales have attained a 1,500% increase, also thanks to the all-electric sedan. 

Tesla risks losing subsidies in South Korea after Model 3 dominates local EV market
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