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."


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.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 11, 2016, with the headline 'Carmaker eyeing S'pore re-entry'. Print Edition | Subscribe