Carmaker eyeing Singapore re-entry

Mr Joe Nguyen, a senior vice-president at an Internet research firm, with the used Tesla Model S that he sourced from Hong Kong. The car was slapped with a $15,000 carbon surcharge here.
Despite the recent brouhaha over a self-imported Model S which was slapped with a $15,000 carbon surcharge, the Tesla Motors feels Singapore "could be a great market". PHOTO: BLOOMBERG

Tesla wants to re-enter the Singapore market, after leaving in a huff in 2011 without selling a single car.

Despite the recent brouhaha over a self-imported Model S which was slapped with a $15,000 carbon surcharge, the California-based electric carmaker feels Singapore "could be a great market".

In response to e-mail queries sent to chief executive Elon Musk - who called Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong last week over a controversial carbon surcharge imposed on the solitary Model S - a Tesla spokesman said: "We are already in close contact with the Land Transport Authority and working with them to bring Tesla vehicles to Singapore."

SPH Brightcove Video
Razor Multimedia Journalist Olivia Chang finds out what it's like to experience the sleek Tesla Model S in an exclusive interview in the passenger seat of Joe Nguyen's fully-electric car.

In February 2011, Tesla packed up and left - just six months after setting up an office at Suntec to market its battery-powered cars. The Straits Times understands that the company pulled out because it failed to secure tax incentives, making them commercially unviable.

The two-seater Roadster, which was Tesla's only model back then, would have cost about $500,000 without the incentives.

That would have made the car - with the body and chassis of a Lotus Elise - as costly as a Porsche 911 S.

But had the tax break been granted, the car - which is no longer produced - would have cost around $250,000 or less.

The Economic Development Board, which was in charge of approving the tax break that was tied to a test-bedding project, said Tesla had not met "technical requirements".

With the new Carbon Emissions-Based Vehicle Scheme (CEVS) in place, Tesla reckons that it is worth giving Singapore a second shot. But it would not say when it will return.

In addition to the Model S, Tesla recently released a crossover with falcon-winged doors called Model X. The company is also rolling out software updates that allow its cars to be operated semi-autonomously.

If the cars qualify for the top-tier CEVS rebate of $30,000, retail prices are likely to range from $300,000 to $450,000.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 11, 2016, with the headline Carmaker eyeing Singapore re-entry. Subscribe