Could this be Elon Musk’s worst nightmare? When Tesla opened shop in South Korea, there was a 6-month-long waiting list for customers, but last month, Tesla managed to sell just one car in the entire country.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk warned of slowing growth before the launch of the new model next year while announcing quarterly results a few weeks back. However, no one could have predicted the absolutely dismal performance of the American EV maker in South Korea last month. It might be hard to believe, but Tesla managed to sell just one of its cars in January in the country. The sale of a single unit of the Model Y SUV marks the worst month in terms of sales since July 2022, when Tesla could sell a single car in South Korea. Interestingly, Tesla was the country’s top imported EV maker in 2023, while the China-made Model Y was one of the top sellers last year.

An EV charging station in Seoul.

It’s not just Tesla that performed poorly in South Korea. The number of new EVs registered in the country dropped 80% in January from December, according to data from Seoul-based researcher Carisyou. Analysts believe a combination of different reasons has caused the severe slowdown in enthusiasm for EVs in South Korea, which includes higher interest rates and inflation, along with concerns about battery fires and a shortage of public fast chargers. Additionally, there are also concerns about the quality of Chinese-made vehicles, discouraging people from buying Tesla EVs.

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Tesla supercharger in Sejong. Source – Twitter / TeslaCharging

However, Tesla thinks there’s a completely different reason behind the company’s abject performance. The company believes many potential buyers avoid purchasing vehicles in January as they wait for the government to announce subsidies in February. In a statement to Bloomberg News, a spokesperson for Tesla in South Korea claimed buyers delayed EV purchases before the confirmation of subsidies. This sounds like a valid reason, Tesla sold 1,022 vehicles last December. It’s simply astounding that in 2017, when Tesla opened its first store in South Korea, there was a six-month waiting list. Fast forward to 2024, and the company managed to sell only a single car in an entire month. This will sure to severely impact the company’s reputation.

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Sayan Chakravarty, a Senior Writer at Luxurylaunches, brings over 10 years of automotive journalism expertise. He provides insightful coverage of the latest cars and motorcycles across American and European markets, while also highlighting luxury yachts, high-end watches, and gadgets. An authentic automobile aficionado, his commitment shines through in educating readers about the automotive world. When the keyboard rests, Sayan feeds his wanderlust, traversing the world on his motorcycle.