Tesla enters Korea market in 2017

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Tesla enters Korea market in 2017

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Tesla Motors unveils the new lower-priced Model 3 sedan at the Tesla Motors design studio on Thursday in Hawthorne, Califonia. [AP/NEWSIS]

Elon Musk, co-founder and CEO of Tesla Motors, made official over Twitter that Korea will be included in the group of countries offered its first mass-market electric vehicle, the Model 3.

The arrival of the American electric vehicle trailblazer next year is bound to trigger competition in Korea, where zero-emission vehicles are in their infancy and only a few models are available.

A day after the premium carmaker unveiled its first affordable, eco-friendly vehicle Thursday, the Tesla product architect tweeted, “Adding several more countries to Model 3 order page tonight. Check for details, but will include India, Brazil, SA, SK, NZ, Sing & Ireland.” When a Korean Twitter user asked if SK meant “South Korea,” Musk replied, “Yes.”

Tesla began accepting preorders with a deposit of $1,000 on Friday and Musk said the automaker booked reservations for 253,000 cars as of 7 a.m. Sunday local time. The Web site was open to prospective buyers in Korea, requiring them to enter their name, address, credit card information and number of cars to purchase, which was limited to two.

How it intends to deliver the vehicles to customers in Korea remains unclear, given the American carmaker has yet to launch operations here, although it has registered the company with the Korean government and set up an office in southern Seoul.

The five-seat Model 3 is Tesla’s third model - after the Model S sedan and Model X SUV - although it is part of a plan Musk revealed in August 2006. The new model will reach 96.56 kilometers per hour (60 miles per hour) in less than six seconds and be able to travel at least 346 kilometers (215 miles) per charge. It will be equipped with a 15-inch horizontal touch screen, compared to the famous 17-inch vertical display in the Model S.

Its starting price is $35,000, less than half the cost of its predecessors. If a prospective buyer in Korea receives subsidies for electric vehicles from the Ministry of Environment and local governments currently applied to cars, the actual price could drop to as low as the low 20 million won range ($17,422). In Jeju Island, a test bed for electric vehicles in Korea, the ministry offers a 12 million won subsidy and the provincial government 7 million won.

“The final step in the master plan is a mass-market, affordable car,” said Musk at a Model 3 launch event at the company’s design studios in Hawthorne, California. He also said with confidence, “You will not be able to buy a better car for $35,000.”

Electric vehicles running on Korean roads accounted for a mere 0.45 percent of the world’s electric cars in 2015, according to Electric Vehicle Initiative - largely due to a lack of general interest in environmentally-friendly cars.

Hyundai Motor will mass produce the fully-electric Ionic in June.

BY SEO JI-EUN [seo.jieun@joongang.co.kr]

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