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ILSAN, Nov. 18 (Yonhap) — South Korea has “great potential” and is a market that Tesla Motors Inc. hopes to expand into in the future, one of its co-founders 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 under way 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, appeal to young and environmentally conscious consumers with a 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.
Tesla co-founder and CTO Jeffrey B. Straubel listens to a question from the audience after delivering a keynote speech at an energy forum in Ilsan, west of Seoul, on Nov. 18, 2015. (photo courtesy of forum organizers)
“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 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 mainstream overall. That is the main reasoning for why we did this,” he added.
Meanwhile, in a separate written interview by the organizers, Straubel urged the Seoul government to make a “level playing field” between electric and fossil fuel-powered vehicles, a move he thinks would lead to a rapid growth in the EV market here.
“To see more growth will also need more vehicle models in the market. Today there is not much selection in Korea for EVs, and this certainly limits the number of customers that can find what they want,” he said. “From the government’s point of view, it should consider how to make a level playing field between EVs and fossil fuel vehicles.”