Tesla prepares to open Korean office

December 18, 2015
Tesla Model S is seen in this file photo, Friday. (Courtesy of Tesla Motors)

Tesla Model S is seen in this file photo, Friday. (Courtesy of Tesla Motors)

By Park Jin-hai

Tesla Motors, a leading American electric vehicle manufacturer, is starting to make inroads into the Korean market.

The company registered itself in Korea as Tesla Korea Limited on Nov.13 and is gearing up to start doing business here, according to the corporate register by the Supreme Court of Korea, Friday.

Registered under co-CEOs Todd Maron, currently general counsel at Tesla Motors, and Susan Repo, director at Tesla Financial Services, the new corporation has its offices in Gangnam, southern Seoul, with a starting capital of 100 million won.

The purpose of its business, as stated in the corporate registration document, is that Tesla will provide services to import, distribute and sell auto parts and accessories.

With this new entity, rumors about Tesla cars entering the local market have gained force again.

The company fanned such speculation in July, when its U.S. headquarters posted a recruiting announcement for a sales vice president position for the Japanese and Korean markets.

Last month, Jeffery Straubel, chief technology officer of Tesla and its co-founder, said during a forum here that he sees great potential in Korea but stopped short of detailing a date of the company’s entry to the country. “I can’t give a specific answer about when we will exactly start selling vehicles in Korea but this is a market that we are committed to and we think there is great potential here,” he said.

However, he expressed caution about expanding into a new market, adding that since Tesla is still a relatively small company, it needs to be careful. “We don’t want to damage the brand by growing too quickly and not having enough infrastructure, service and support for our customers,” he said.

Industry experts also say that it will take some time to see Tesla’s local launch, because the infrastructure for electric vehicles in Korea is still in its early stages.

If the company launches its vehicle sales here, Korea will become its fourth Asian destination after China, Japan and Hong Kong.

Kim Pil-soo, an automotive engineering professor at Daelim University, said Tesla could emerge as a strong player in the local imported car market.

“Tesla has both premium and low cost product lines. Its quality is one of the highest in the electric vehicle market. At a time when local customers are increasingly fond of imported vehicles, if Tesla cars hit local showrooms, its repercussion on the local automotive market will not be small,” he said.

The carmaker has entered nearly 20 countries and in September launched its Model X sport utility. In March, it plans to launch its Model 3 with a price tag half of that of its average EV.