Tesla See’s “Great Potential” in South Korea

David Lee, Nov. 18, 2015, 8:04 a.m.

South Korea has "great potential" and is a market that it hopes to expand into in the future, an executive of Tesla Motors Inc. said Wednesday, stopping short of giving any specific business plans. Jeffery B. Straubel, chief technology officer of Tesla and its co-founder along with Elon Musk, made the remarks during a question and answer session following his keynote speech at a forum underway in Ilsan, west of Seoul.

"I can't give a very specific answer on when we will exactly start selling vehicles in Korea but this is a market that we are committed to and we think there is a great potential here," Straubel said. Tesla is seen as one of the most innovative companies in the electric vehicle (EV) industry. Its futuristic car models such as the Model S and Model X are appealing to young and environmentally conscious consumers with longer driving range and diverse computer-controlled features inside.

Rumors have been swirling about when Tesla will launch its vehicles in South Korea. Some media reports showed that Tesla is making preparations to make inroads into the country soon. Straubel noted that Tesla remains "cautious" in expanding into a new market since it does not want a hasty move to hurt its product brand in the global market.

"We are still a relatively small company and we need to be careful. As we expand into each new country and each new region, customers have very positive experience. We don't want to damage the brand by growing too quickly and not having enough infrastructure, service and support," he said. "Korea is a market we plan to expand into but I can't give you a specific date just quite yet. We will do it as soon as we realistically can for our growth plan."

Last year, Tesla surprised the market by announcing that it would share its own patents with other competitors. Straubel emphasized that the move is aimed at expanding the overall size of the market, which is not a mainstream yet. "We don't want to use our patents to block other companies from legitimately expanding and developing products and making EVs a reality faster," Straubel said.

"Part of Tesla's success relates to the entire industry starting to embrace new technology so that more people can share infrastructure cost and consumers become more familiar with the technology and it becomes just a mainstream overall. That is the main reasoning for why we did this," he added.

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