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Tesla charges into Singapore

Prices start at S$426,800 (including COE); or leasing plan with 20% down payment.

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All Tesla models are electric vehicles powered by solely batteries, such as the Tesla X 75D sport utility vehicle above.

Singapore

IT'S official: Tesla Motors is now in Singapore . . . unofficially. The upstart car maker known for its sleek, powerful electric vehicles (EVs) has not set up shop here, but car dealer Hong Seh Motors has started to import its cars. It showcased two Tesla models at last weekend's Singapore Yacht Show at Sentosa.

The company is best known for being the previous distributor for Ferrari and Maserati. It branched out into luxury yachts 10 years ago, but has continued to sell cars. It specialises in parallel importing high-performance and luxury models from various brands.

Hong Seh is selling three Tesla models, all of which are powered solely by batteries; unlike hybrid cars, which also have a petrol engine.

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Prices start at S$426,800 (including Certificate Of Entitlement) for a Model S 85D. The luxury sedan can cover roughly 435km on a single charge, and accelerates to 100km/h in a heart-thumping 3.3 seconds.

A more powerful P85D is available for S$50,000 more.

Tesla's Model X Sport Utility Vehicle (SUV), a car with striking gull-wing doors, is also for sale. A 75D version, which has a range of about 380km, costs S$528,800. Like the Model S, it is something of an electric rocket. It surges to 100km/h in only 5.2 seconds, and is available in both five and seven-seat configurations.

The Business Times understands that the cars have been sourced from Hong Kong, where Tesla sales slowed significantly after the expiry of electric vehicle tax incentives.

"I believe that electric transportation is the way of the future, and I want to support it," said Edward Tan, the executive director of Hong Seh Motors on his decision to import Teslas.

Undergoing homologation

The cars are currently undergoing homologation, the process by which the Land Transport Authority approves cars for sale here. Hong Seh expects the process to take up to six weeks, after which the company will be able to commence sales.

The steep prices mean that Teslas will likely remain fairly exotic and rare in Singapore, but Hong Seh is hoping to supercharge their take-up by leasing them out.

Conventional hire purchase plans require buyers to place a down payment of 40 per cent of the price of a car, but with a leasing plan, customers would pay half of that.

"With a 20 per cent down payment, customers can lease a Model S 85D for seven years for just S$5,388 a month," said Ken Low, the head of Hong Seh Motors' car leasing department.

A Model X costs S$6,588 a month for the same leasing period. The sums cover annual servicing and 24 hour breakdown assistance in Singapore and Malaysia.

Hong Seh said that it will be able to supply a Type-II charging station along with the installation at customers' homes. "Customers can also use one of the many Type-II charging stations around the island," said Mr Low.

Tesla Motors has tried its luck in Singapore before. It opened a sales office here in 2010, only to pull the plug on operations less than a year later.

Things could be different for the brand this time. Tesla has enjoyed positive buzz from enthusiastic customers around the world, who readily share on the Internet their affection for their zero emissions cars. The cars' powerful acceleration thrills driving enthusiasts.

Electrified cars in general have gained momentum, too. BMW's i3 and i8, an electric city car and a plug-in petrol-electric hybrid respectively, have raised the technology's profile here. The brand launched five more "iPerformance" plug-in models here last year, and said that globally its sales volume for such electrified cars matches that of Tesla.

Mercedes-Benz will launch two plug-in hybrid electric cars in the second half of this year, while Jaguar will launch its electric I-Pace early next year (see sidebar).

Hong Seh intends to broaden the Tesla line-up soon. "We are able to bring in all variants of Tesla cars currently in production," said Mr Low.

Whether there is enough interest in electric cars for all of these models to find buyers here remains to be seen, but the arrival of powerful Teslas and the availability of leasing plans could give electric cars an extra jolt of life in Singapore.

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