It would appear that Tesla is having a tough time keeping developments with South Korean suppliers under wraps. According to reports coming from the Korean Herald, the Silicon Valley automaker and energy company has reportedly slapped a Seoul-based supplier with a $1 million dollar fine for breaching a non-disclosure agreement established between the two companies. Several other suppliers within the country have received warnings for leaking information to media about potential deals with Tesla.
Despite widespread speculation earlier in the year that Tesla would be working with Mando, Korea’s largest auto parts company, on supplying parts for Model 3’s self-driving technology – something the automaker has denied – there has been no official confirmations from Tesla that it was working with local suppliers for its upcoming mass market sedan.
Tesla has worked with Japanese suppliers on development of parts for its premium Model S and Model X, but with the Model 3 marketed as an affordable electric vehicle with a starting price of $35k, the company is believed to have turned to more affordable South Korean suppliers in order to cut costs. Kim Pil-soo, an automotive engineering professor at Daelim University, tells the Korean Herald, “A battery pack makes up almost half the price of a Tesla car. In order to reduce the car price, the carmaker has no other option but to cut costs on parts, Korean firms offer quality parts at cheaper prices, while their Chinese rivals still lag behind in terms of technical sophistication.”
Any vendor partnership with Tesla is seen as a huge achievement, not only because the supplier implicitly ties itself with one of the most talked about and popular brands in the world, but it has huge positive implications if Tesla continues to work with the supplier in times of skyrocketing demand for a product. Because of that, lesser-known vendors within the country have reportedly taken the opportunity to leak potential partnership deals with Tesla as a way get its name out. Having ones brand recognized, especially if associated to Tesla, can open a lot more doors.
While Tesla continues to lay the foundation for its eventual entry into the South Korean market, we expect to hear more leaks about the company’s involvement with local vendors, and within the country as a whole. Just last week, we reported that a Model S P90D with Autopilot was spotted conducting self-driving and charging tests in Seoul. The company also officially opened up its online reservation process on August 21 to interested buyers of the Model S and Model X within the country, marking the official entry of Tesla into the Korean market.