Charge! Tesla rolling into UAE market

As it has done in the United States, Western Europe and some parts of Asia, the automaker Tesla is hoping to soon electrify the United Arab Emirates market.

The California-based company said via an email invite to current GCC customers -- who until now have had to have the electric cars imported -- that it is hosting a celebratory event in the UAE to mark its official entry into the region. Tesla said it hopes to begin selling cars there this summer.

Tesla also posted three job positions in Dubai: service advisor, service manager and service technician.

Experts cited in a February 5 Zawya piece said Tesla will have its hands full dealing with competition from traditional big-engine vehicles, including those offering the luxury and high-performance so popular in the area.

Others, however, see now as a good time for Tesla to make its move into the region.

The Gulf News Journal spoke with Steven Isberg, a professor of finance at the Merrick School of Business at the University of Baltimore. Isberg said GCC governments are trying to pivot quickly away from their traditional oil and gas industries as oil prices fall.

“They've come to the realization that they won't be able to sell crude oil forever,” Isberg said.

At the same time, he said, the electric car is making waves all over the world, particularly in the United States. If for no other reason, Tesla might attract buyers in the GCC who want the hottest new items.

“In Dubai and other areas of cash-rich GCC countries, there are quite a number of consumers who can engage in 'conspicuous consumption,' " Isberg said, adding that Tesla’s emergence on the scene might catch on in the collector culture, especially since the cars are fast and sleek. “There are some people there with money to spend."

He said the plug-in charging aspect of the cars makes sense in a place like the United Arab Emirates, where most drivers travel only short distances rather than hundreds of miles to get somewhere.

“The more you're driving is local, the more practical electric cars can be,” Isberg said.

He cautioned, however, that Tesla needs to make sure it has an infrastructure of charging stations in place throughout the Middle East or it won't see the kind of market share it's used to. But he added that the company might already be anticipating that, since it has posted only three employment positions and has not committed to a major investment yet.

“If it doesn't work out, it will be easy to bail out of,” Isberg said.