South Korea Catches Tesla Fever

South Korea has caught Tesla fever, with tech-savvy professionals following the shipping routes of their long-awaited vehicles. Reuters interviewed one such Tesla owner, Kang Sung-mo, who has an advertising production agency in Seoul. “I’m not interested in cars, but I am interested in the Tesla brand and its technology,” he told Reuters. Back in December, he purchased a Tesla Model 3, and noted that being associated with Tesla’s reputation for innovation was good for his image. He’d just bought a Hyundai crossover last summer before he upgraded his ride to the Model 3.

Kim Dong-hwan, an IT professional in Seoul, told Reuters that he wanted to avoid public transportation during the pandemic and wanted to avoid driving fatigue on his long commute. Despite having a panel gap in his Model 3 and having to wait a few months before it will be fixed, Kim said that the benefits of owning a Tesla and the emotional appeal of a technologically advanced brand were worth it. “I am very satisfied given that Tesla’s self-driving feature has reduced fatigue while driving,” he said.

Tesla Sales In South Korea

Last month, Tesla had its best month in South Korea and sold 2,827 vehicles. This was a comeback from weak sales in April and May that were due to the Fremont factory being shut down for the coronavirus, as well as Tesla’s usual delivery trends (deliveries overseas are focused on the end of the quarter). Despite these weak sales, the Korea Automobile Manufacturers Association and Korea Automobile Importers & Distributors Association reported a 40.1% increase in EV sales between January and April, most of which have come from Tesla.

Tesla has fully infiltrated the South Korean market by now, and other imported brands are also moving from hybrid/plug-in-hybrid models to fully electric vehicles, according to The Korea Bizwire.

Tesla Model 3 is South Korea’s second most imported vehicle. It’s ahead of the BMW 4 Series and the Audi A6, yet behind the Mercedes E-Class.

Reuters noted that somewhere between 4,000 and 5,000 South Korean customers have ordered a Model 3. September is the earliest delivery date for these eager customers. That information came from an anonymous source who wasn’t authorized to speak with the media.

One thing that is helping Tesla sales in South Korea is its subsidies, up to 12.43 million won ($10,380) for the Model 3. This results in a net price of less than $40,000 (similar to the US price).

Celebrities and Cocktail Parties

Tesla fans in South Korea are making the wait on their vehicles fun. As they track the routes of the ships bringing their vehicles, they’re drinking “Tesla” drinks. These cocktails are mixed with HiteJinro’s Terra-brand beer and the Korean traditional liquor, soju. In Korean, these two names combined are pronounced Tesla.

In the US, celebrities such as Ben Affleck, Morgan Freeman, Jay Leno, and many, many others own Tesla vehicles. Leno even reviews them on his show, “Jay Leno’s Garage.” Leno recently reviewed the Cybertruck and the Model Y on his show.  In his review of the Model Y, Leno recalls a moment when he accidentally called Elon Musk while he was in China and it was the middle of the night there. Oops. Also, in his Model Y video, Leno demonstrated some of the wonders of Autopilot in heavy traffic and shared his thoughts on Tesla. “If you can put people into space safely and economically, then you can build an automobile. And that’s what Elon has done.”

It’s not just Hollywood, though. Celebrities around the world love their Teslas. The same can be said for Korean actor Yoo Ah-in, who is known for being stylish and is often seen in his Model X. He was filmed in it in a reality show recently while going to a grocery store. This led to an increase in orders for the Model X, according to another anonymous source.

While South Korea is catching Tesla fever, Tesla is setting the world on fire by becoming its most valuable automaker — or perhaps we should say it is trying to prevent the world from catching fire. Imagine, an EV-only company being the world’s most valuable automaker. This just goes to show that the world is demanding cleaner vehicles that won’t harm the planet. Legacy automakers didn’t pay attention until they saw Tesla dominating sales in key market segments. South Korea is just one of many countries around the world that have caught Tesla fever.

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