June 08, 2023 10:41
Tesla has set up a public relations team in Korea, which is unprecedented for a company that does not have a PR department even at headquarters and relies on CEO Elon Musk making announcements on Twitter.
Only 424 Teslas were sold here last month, down 77 percent on-year, and cumulative sales from January to May this year totaled 1,841 cars, down 46 percent. Over the same period Tesla's sales in China surged 142 percent.
The main reason is stronger competition from electric-car lineups by Mercedes-Benz and BMW. Mercedes sold 2,723 EQE and EQS sedans in Korea in the first five months of the year to top EV sales here. BMW saw better sales than Tesla with the iX3s and i4s, and the i5, the electric version of the BMW 5 Series, is expected to improve sales even further.
Tesla seems to have failed to read the tastes of Korean consumers, who like fresh models. Unlike rival automakers that roll out face-lifted models every three to four years, Tesla has been selling the same models for the last six years except for some software updates.
Now Tesla worries how the Model Y, which is manufactured in China, will perform here when it hits showrooms in the second half. Previous models are manufactured in the U.S., but the rear-wheel-drive Model Y is made in Tesla's Shanghai factory.
One staffer at an import-car dealership said, "Attitudes to Chinese-made EVs have improved, but it remains to be seen how well consumers will receive a Chinese-made Tesla."
Kim's firing was reported in late April, only a day after Tesla CEO Elon Musk met with President Yoon Suk-yeol here. Yvonne Chan, the carmaker's regional director in Taiwan and Thailand, has stepped in as interim head.
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