Tesla, Polestar can disrupt Korea’s tough auto market

Foreign electric vehicle manufacturers are present at the Korean show, with local champion Hyundai absent.

The 9th International Electric Vehicle Expo on the resort island of Jeju, the pioneer of Korea’s green ambitions, was held earlier this month and offers some interesting lessons.

The fair was the first major public event in Jeju since the pandemic, but the scale was still smaller than expected, with only 65 companies participating. Some, like Hyundai, have caught the eye of their absence – oddly enough, Hyundai and its subsidiary Kia account for just over two-thirds of the three cars sold in South Korea.

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However, the International Convention Center in Seogwipo is still bustling with business executives, young couples and families, and even a group of middle-aged tourists in hiking gear. like they had stopped by before climbing nearby Hallasan Mountain. About 30,000 people flocked to the four-day event, highlighting the growing demand for electric cars in South Korea – one of only two countries in the world with more than 100,000 new electric vehicles registered in 2019. 2021 (remaining country is Norway).

There is also interest in looking beyond local champions such as the Hyundai Ioniq and Kia Niro range. Price is probably a big factor – both retail for as little as $40,000, even when government subsidies are taken into account.

What surprised me was that there were more old people and young women than I expected. An elderly couple test-drives the $8,000 two-seater EV of South Korean startup Maiv, while two women in their 20s attempt to maneuver the vibrant orange tricycle. manufactured by Carver.

The star of the show, of course, is Tesla, the company that made its first appearance at the show. While the electric vehicle pioneer’s booth was empty, crowds flocked to see the Model Y and Model 3 on display. With six stores in South Korea, Tesla has become the fourth-largest foreign automaker in the popular home market in 2021 with sales of 17,826 vehicles, surpassing Volkswagen and Volvo.

Polestar, which opened its first showroom in Seoul in December, is also a lovely product for visitors. Its outdoor display is as big as a Tesla, displaying a Polestar 2. It was the best-selling foreign EV model in April, with around 460 units shipped, according to the Sweden-based company.

The first floor is mainly electric motorbikes. Two-wheelers occupy a gray area in Korea. While it’s not uncommon for electric motorcycles to cross bike lanes, electric scooters are currently banned from using EV charging stations, an inconvenience that diminishes their appeal. That’s probably why Samsung SDI is displaying a battery replacement station next to the motorcycles equipped with its cells.

The hottest item on display is KSV’s $120,000 electric boat. Pickup truck (it comes complete with kitchen, bathroom, bed and TV and can be parked on land) and part boat, with a range of 60 km from two 30 kilowatt-hour batteries, it attracted a lot of attention. curious onlookers.

My takeaways from the expo: South Korea’s electric vehicle market will continue to grow, and there are opportunities for foreign automakers like Tesla and Polestar to break into the country’s famous auto market. .

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