TOKYO -- US Tesla’s electric vehicles are about to hit the South Korean market with its flagship store set to open in Starfield Hanam, located some 20 kilometers east of Seoul, as early as the end of November.
Tesla’s debut in the country has lagged behind other neighboring countries such as Japan and China. The electric-car maker opened its first showroom in Japan in October 2010 and in China in November 2013.
In Korea, Tesla started to receive preorders in August. Tesla’s media representative in Tokyo on Nov. 11 declined to reveal the exact number of preorders received so far, but said that there have been “quite a lot” of them from Korea.
A man walks past Tesla`s Tokyo showroom on Nov. 11 Park Ga-young/The Korea Herald
The Tokyo showroom located in the city’s upscale neighborhood offered a glimpse of what’s in store for Korean customers.
In the hall on the first floor, a black SUV Model X featuring automatic falcon wing doors is displayed.
Tesla`s skateboard chassis displayed at Tesla Tokyo showroom Park Ga-young/The Korea Herald
On the second floor of the showroom, Tesla’s skateboard chassis, used for both the Model S and Model X, shows the simpler structure than conventional cars. The chassis contains a huge battery in the middle and dual motors which enables All-Wheel Drive.
The simplicity is revealed again inside the Model S 90D, the tested vehicle. The first impression is one of riding in the future of automobiles.
Tesla Model S 90D`s center console and steering wheel Park Ga-young/The Korea Herald
The car’s center console is equipped with a 17-inch touchscreen with no buttons. The touchscreen controls most of the functions including navigation, audio system and sunroof, among others.
Its navigation shows real time estimated arrival time calculated based on traffic.
Rather than being located next to the driver’s seat, the gear shift is attached to the right side of the steering wheel column.
The model’s music system is impressive. On the touch screen it is very easy to change the speaker balance anywhere the user wishes.
Tesla Model S 90D, the tested model, is parked in front of the Tokyo showroom on Nov. 11. Park Ga-young/The Korea Herald
The 90-kWh Model S 90D tested by The Korea Herald has a price tag of 11,060,000 yen ($99,734) and was equipped with 19-inch Continental wheels and a sunroof.
The half an hour drive was from the Tesla showroom to another busy district in downtown Tokyo‘s Shinjuku on a Friday evening with heavy traffic that did not allow a chance to try on-the-edge handling.
But there was an opportunity to test the 0-to-60 mph on an empty stretch of road. The 90D’s official number of 4.2 seconds seemed to be accurate as it showed a strong acceleration, so powerful that it felt like riding a roller coaster.
Tesla Model S 90D is 4,978mm long, 1,964mm wide and 1,435mm high and can drive 473 kilometers when fully charged, according to the company’s official figures.
The price of the Model S 90D in Korea has not been revealed yet but this model is likely to be the first Tesla model in South Korea as the company applied for a certificate for emissions and noise on Sept. 27, which it received earlier this month.
While the Tesla PR representative in Tokyo, who also covers the Korean market, said that while the launch date is not set yet, it will be sold in partnership with Shinsegae, the country’s largest retailer.
It is unlikely that buyers of Tesla models will enjoy the government subsidy as it cannot fully charge in less than 10 hours -- one of the thresholds for the subsidy. However, Tesla’s debut will likely speed up competition, not only among the electric-car makers, but also non-electric cars as the design can appeal to early adopters looking for something futuristic.
By Park Ga-young (email@example.com)