If the Model T ushered in Henry Ford’s “car for the great multitude”, Wednesday night saw the UAE introduced to the world’s first affordable electric car in the shape of the Tesla Model 3.
Telsa, founded by the billionaire Elon Musk, has earmarked the Middle East as its next area of expansion with the opening of a salesroom and service centre on the Sheikh Zayed Road in the heart of Dubai.
The arrival of Tesla in the region coincides with the announcement last week
that the company is ready roll the production lines on its latest Model 3 - which is expected to retail from around Dh128,000 - and hopefully opening up a new mass market for electric vehicles, which currently make just 0.2 per cent of world production.
The new Tesla service centre, which faces the Burj Khalifa, is being matched with a growing network of specialist charging stations across the country, including five ultrafast superchargers between cities and nearly 50 “destination chargers” by the end of the year.
Peter Bardenfleth-Hansen, Tesla’s director of new markets, said the company had chosen the UAE because of the country’s commitment to new renewable energy.
“We are here because you are making a huge difference,” he said.
“The UAE has been a beacon.
“We want to accelerate the world towards a more sustainable future.”
Among those invited to the launch were many of the country’s small but dedicated band of Tesla owners, who have defiantly driven electric cars in a country where petrol rules the roads.
Jimmy Grewal had only bought his Model X just two days ago. “I’ve been waiting since 2008 when Tesla first came out.” Now married and with children, he wanted a car that was family friendly, but “with sports performance.”
“I’ve looked at my driving patterns, Abu Dhabi and the Northern Emirates, and the car has enough range.”
Ajlan Saeed had owned his Tesla S60 for two years, buying nearly new in Abu Dhabi. It had been an unwanted gift for the previous owner.
He was part of a group of Tesla owners who supported each other until the company expanded into the UAE. “We’ve been waiting for this for so long, although with Telsa’s you don't get many issues or service requirements. This is a good feeling.”
He has already ordered the new Model 3.
Tesla road tests
Tesla was founded by the South African billionaire in 2004 and has built a reputation for high quality electric cars whose performance has challenged many existing luxury car manufacturers.
Since delivering its first vehicle in 2008, Tesla has sold around 170,000 cars, a relatively small slice of the electric vehicle market, which itself is also still developing.
The five seater Model 3 has a range of around 350 miles on a single charge, depending on conditions, but making it a practical proposition for return journeys between Abu Dhabi, Al Ain and Dubai.
Buyers in the UAE will most likely have to wait until the New Year to receive the first Model 3. They will also need to put down a deposit of Dh4,000.