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People walk past a planned store of Tesla in Hanam, South Korea, December 22, 2016.
Reuters/Kim Hong-Ji
Lower prices coming soon.
BARGAIN

Buying a Tesla in South Korea is about to become a much better deal

By Steve Mollman

Tesla recently watched sales plummet in Hong Kong after expired tax-breaks for electric vehicles made its cars suddenly far more expensive than they had been. But in South Korea, its vehicles will soon become a much better deal than they are now.

South Korea already offers a generous incentive worth up to 26 million won ($23,098) for buying an electric vehicle, as much as 20% off the retail price. Tesla hasn’t benefited from it, though, because of a rule laying out what kind of cars are eligible: namely, ones that can charge in under 10 hours using a standard outlet. The Tesla cars on offer take a bit longer, and so they haven’t qualified.

But the 10-hour rule is about to be abolished, the nation’s environment ministry said on July 18. One big problem with the rule—introduced in 2012 to address the inconvenience of long charging times—was that it gave an advantage to cars with small battery packs and shorter ranges, discouraging the purchase of vehicles with bigger packs and longer ranges. Among the latter is the Tesla Model S, the first model the company has offered in South Korea. (It delivered its first car in the country in June.)

When they go into effect in September, the rule changes should give Tesla a nice boost. South Korea has the world’s 11th-biggest auto market by sales and is a major market for premium cars. What’s more, interest in the brand appears to be strong: Within days of opening its first showroom in Seoul in March, Tesla had a six-month waiting list to test-drive a Model S.