Tesla opens first showroom to mixed responses

Shoppers visit a Tesla Korea showroom in the Starfield shopping mall in Hanam, Gyeonggi Province, Wednesday. Tesla Korea opened its first showroom at the mega mall on the day to attract motorists and journalists looking for a glimpse of the U.S. electric vehicle maker’s luxury sports sedan, the Model S P90D. / Korea Times photo by Jhoo Dong-chan

By Jhoo Dong-chan

Tesla Korea opened its first showroom at the Starfield shopping mall in Hanam, Gyeonggi Province, Wednesday, showcasing the Model S 90D, a luxury electric vehicle (EV) sedan with the farthest range compared to competitors here.

Shinsegae Group Vice Chairman Chung Yong-jin, the nation’s first Tesla vehicle owner, also visited the showroom with Tesla Vice President Nicolas Villeger to represent the industry’s high interest in the U.S. EV maker’s expansion into the market.

But people seem divided over the prospects of the Model S 90D, which boasts darting acceleration performance.

“It’s gorgeous, but I think the vehicle is just too expensive,” a showroom visitor in his 40s surnamed Moon said.

“Without the government’s consumer subsidies for EVs worth up to 20 million won, the model is as expensive as German premium Mercedes-Benz’s S-class vehicles. I don’t think motorists would choose the Tesla Model S 90D over the S-class cars.”

The environment ministry and provincial governments offer 12 million won to 19 million won in subsidies for EV purchases, but Model S customers are not expected to benefit as the sedan failed to meet the requirements.

Any vehicle should take less than 10 hours to charge on a 7-kilowatt-hour low-speed charger to qualify for the subsidies. It takes around 13 hours to fully charge the Model S 90D’s 90 kWh lithium-ion battery.

Without the government’s consumer subsidies, the Tesla EV’s price starts at 121 million won ($107,000), and is expected to reach 161 million won for the full-option package.

A couple surnamed Kim and Lee in their 60s, however, showed a different response.

“Considering the Model S 90D sedan’s high performance along with its differentiated drive range, I believe the model will readily find its place in the luxury sedan market here,” they said.

“Tesla Korea said it starts delivering the Model S 90D by June, but my wife and I just can’t wait. We ordered the model directly from the United States. As soon as charging infrastructure gets established here, Tesla vehicles will be a game changer.”

A Tesla Korea official said the carmaker will provide a 7-kilowatt-home charger for its customers, adding it will also complete five charging stations in the Seoul metropolitan area by June when its vehicles are expected go on the roads here.

“Tesla vehicles are also compatible with charging devices Korea Electric Power Corp. installed in 700 public charging stations across the country,” he said.

“Separate from those public stations, Tesla Korea has its own plan to continuously install more stations to meet customer demand. Charging won’t be such a big issue for Tesla owners soon.”

Mounted a single-speed electric motor that produces maximum 417 horsepower, the Model S 90D does 0 to 100 kilometers per hour in 4.4 seconds. Its top speed is 250 kilometers per hour.

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