August 19, 2019 13:24
Tesla started sales of the Model 3 in Korea last Tuesday, more than three years after it started taking pre-orders.
Although the range and function of the electric vehicle slightly improved compared to specs revealed at the time of pre-orders, the price tag has also soared.
Consumer responses were mixed. Some said the price actually halved, given that the Model 3 boasts similar specs to the Model X and Model S. Others said there is no thrill as it no longer represents the cutting edge.
Tesla made automotive history in April 2016 when entrepreneur Elon Musk started taking orders for an EV costing US$35,000 that could travel up to 346 km on a single charge. Consumers raved about the new car that could be bought for around W20 million once they subtracted the W12-15 million state subsidies for green cars (US$1=W1,212).
More than 270,000 customers around the world signed up for pre-orders in just three days and the number rose to 550,000 in a year.
Although Tesla did not reveal the exact number, one high-ranking executive said Korea ranks among the top five countries in terms of pre-orders. Tens of thousands of Koreans are estimated to have paid the $1,000 deposit. It can be returned if pre-orders are canceled.
But the Model 3's release faced several delays until it was finally launched in the U.S. in July 2017. Factories could not roll out the cars fast enough, which prompted some critics to question Tesla's capacity to produce them on a large scale at all.
The Model 3 being sold in Korea has improved specs as well as a higher price tag than three years ago. Musk did not live up to his promise to make the EV available for $35,000. Instead, the basic model costs W52.4 million, going down to W33.4 million after W19 million in provincial and state subsidies.
A fully-charged Model 3 has a maximum range of 386 km, which is not that impressive compared to the 415 km of Hyundai's Kona. But it can go from zero to 100 km in just 5.6 seconds compared to 7.4 seconds for the Kona.
Still, the "Long Range" and "Performance" versions of the Model 3 boast a maximum range of 499 km, which is the longest among EVs sold in Korea, but they cost W62.4 million and W72.4 million.
Tesla is expected to deliver the Model 3 to Korean customers from October to December, but Teslas require an adapter to use recharging stations in Korea, but then a rapid recharge only takes about an hour. There are 22 such stations now and 24 by the end of this year and about 170 normal EV recharging stations, where it takes longer.
Kim Pil-soo at Daelim University said the Model 3 "was innovative three years ago, but has now become ordinary in the fast-changing market. But like the iPhone, there will be fans buying it in spite of the inconvenience."
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