At the end of 2018, Elon Musk lifted the hopes of South African Tesla fans by announcing the company would “probably” open a dealership in the country at the end of 2019.
Musk was replying to a tweet from South African cryptocurrency expert Riccardo Spagni about Tesla coming to the country, at the time.
If everything went according to plan, this dealership would be in South Africa right now – but Musk later backpedalled on his statement after Tesla considered the realities of the local market.
The rollout of a Tesla dealership and Model 3 vehicles to South Africa has been delayed primarily due to extremely high import duties.
When asked earlier this year when Tesla would come to South Africa, Musk said: “Would love to, but import duties are extremely high, even for electric vehicles.”
Import duties and adoption
Musk’s statement regarding high import tariffs means we might not see any Tesla cars sold in South Africa for a while, as the government is moving slowly to promote the sale of electric vehicles.
Trade and Industry Minister Ebrahim Patel has stated that the government is working to change this, although that does not guarantee Tesla will consider opening a dealership in South Africa anytime soon.
Fully-electric vehicles are also not very popular in South Africa, with under 1,000 being imported to date. Only BMW, Nissan, and Jaguar currently offer full-electric vehicles to South Africans.
These factors would have influenced Tesla’s decision to open a local dealership, as despite the vocal minority of Tesla fans calling for the launch of the vehicles locally, there is just not the same market in South Africa as there is in other countries like the US and China.
Eskom’s inability to provide a reliable power supply to the South African populace has also not helped the adoption of electric cars in the country.
Another Tesla product did recently become available locally, however – the Powerwall – which is a great answer to the threat of load-shedding.