Earlier this year, we reported on Tesla being reportedly in talks with TK, South Korea’s second-biggest telecom company, to provide Tesla’s future fleet in the country with telematic services. When Tesla is looking for broadband for its vehicles in a new market, it’s a good indicator that it is about to enter said market.
It was followed by Tesla looking for staff and an office in the country, but now it’s official. Tesla officially launched in South Korea and started taking orders for the Model S and X in the market.
Tesla was already taking pre-orders online for the Model 3 since the launch of the vehicle in March 2016. In a statement to the Korean press (via the Korea Herald), Tesla said that it was seeing a lot of interest in the country:
“Korean customers have already shown a great interest in Tesla through reservations for Model 3,”
As we previously reported, South Korea is the world’s 11th largest car market and could become an important country in Tesla’s expansion plan. It largely favors domestic brands like Hyundai and Kia, but aside from the Soul EV and the upcoming Hyundai IONIQ Electric, the country’s electric vehicle options are limited.
Tesla is expected to open retail locations in the country and offer test drives by the end of the year.
The Korea Herald reported that Tesla could have made a faux-pas in the country already:
“Despite the heightened interest in the US carmaker’s official market debut here, some have pointed out that the company needs to pay more attention when dealing with local customers. The Korean version of Tesla’s homepage used a map that labeled the East Sea as the Sea of Japan. It could spark a backlash here as the issue has been at the center of a lengthy territorial dispute between Seoul and Tokyo.
Last year, a country manager of Swedish furniture giant IKEA in South Korea apologized for calling the East Sea the Sea of Japan, after public criticism.”
Tesla’s recruiter for the Korean market was based in Japan prior to the recent expansion.