Car dealerships in Estonia say that more expensive Tesla models are being sold in the wake of EVs becoming more popular in general. However, because Tesla does not have an authorized service center in Estonia, customers will need to take their cars abroad to get them fixed.
EV sales are growing in Estonia and hit 8 percent of all new cars sold for the first time in September, data from the Estonian Association of Vehicle Dealers and Service Centers (AMTEL) reveals.
Dealerships say Tesla sales are booming. Priit Ärmpalu, executive manager of Nordauto, told ERR that the company started offering new Teslas in February after carrying used models the last few years. Nordauto has sold 50-60 new and 20-30 second hand Teslas since February.
"We import used Teslas from Europe for those who do not want a new car, while the government's EV grant also motivates ordering a new Tesla from the factory," Ärmpalu said. "Sales have grown exponentially."
People looking to buy a new electric vehicle with a price of up to €60,000 before VAT can request a grant of €4,000 from the Environmental Investment Center (KIK).
Ärmpalu said that even though Tesla does not have an official presence in Estonia, ordering the cars online has been made very simple. But people still tend to struggle with the details, such as transport, registering the car in Estonia financing and making use of the KIK grant, which is why going through a dealership is the preferred option.
Marko Eberlein, sales consultant for City Motors' electric vehicle sales branch Elektriautopood, confirmed a Tesla boom, which started when the carmaker lowered prices by around €10,000 toward the start of the year.
"It used to be just a dream for many, while the price drop means people can now afford the cars and tend to prefer Teslas over a Nissan Leaf," he said.
Eberlein said while customers preferred more powerful dual motor top of the line models before the price drop, cars with a lower battery capacity and real wheel drive are also selling now.
Young families prefer the Model Y as there's more room inside and it's easier to get into, while single young customers want the Model 3 with rear wheel drive and a Tesla badge on it," the salesman said.
Ärmpalu also highlighted the Model Y as the most popular Tesla in Estonia as it is the choice of 70-80 percent of people who buy a Tesla from the dealership. Such a vehicle costs around €60,000 and has a monthly payment of €650. Cars are delivered roughly a month after the order is sent.
"We usually sell all wheel drive versions, even though rear wheel drive cars are offered. While the latter are a little cheaper, the difference in price is not worth it. It is such a powerful and heavy vehicle that we recommend the AWD version in wintry conditions, which is also what most people want."
While dealers also sell the Model 3 and Model X, the latter costs over €100,000.
Ärmpalu said that while some do not consider Teslas to be proper cars at all and rather refer to them as refrigerators or ladles because of their simple design and lack of buttons, others are enraptured by those very qualities.
Warranty repairs done in Finland
If an Estonian-bought Tesla breaks down or suffers damage, Ärmpalu said that insurance cases are handled in Estonia, also bodywork and brakes maintenance, while software updates are done over the air.
However, Estonia does not have a certified Tesla service center for more serious warranty cases the nearest place for which is in Finland. But the head of Nordauto added that cars they've sold have not experienced serious faults which fall under the manufacturer's warranty so far.
Marko Eberlein also said that Teslas require so little maintenance that owners do not need to have them serviced every year.
"We can handle the suspension and all the moving parts, brake pads and discs, while they very rarely need replacing," he said, adding that a Tesla is very cheap to own. "We have sold over 30 cars and only had to take one to Finland due to a charging error of some sort. But it was sorted out with ease using only a mobile application. Tesla is like an iPhone on wheels."
Motoring journalist Tõnu Korrol said that Tesla's success story started around a decade ago. The company was a complete newcomer in the automotive industry and introduced an entirely new way of making EVs. While electric cars were seen as something that need to be maximally economical and environmentally friendly, Tesla was the first to show that EVs can be sexy.
While many of Tesla's over-the-air digital solutions work well, Korrol said the cars also have their downsides.
The journalist said that Teslas can experience quite a lot of faults compared with other EVs and that while some can be sorted out using software, others require shipping the cars to Helsinki or Stockholm.
"While this might sound like a minor detail because EVs usually require very little maintenance, regular warranty incidents – which can happen with Teslas – mean it may end up taking quite a lot of time," Korrol said. "That's the difficulty of buying a car with no official presence in your country."
He added that the uptick in Tesla sales likely has to do with more than the recent price drop as EVs are becoming more popular in general, even though full EVs still make up a modest part of all cars sold in Estonia.
Korrol said that while he would not rush to recommend an electric vehicle at this time, their growing popularity means that there will be more reliable information on battery performance in Estonian winters, how quickly an EVs interior warms up, their towing capacity etc. in the future.
"The question is whether the leap will happen now or whether it will take a while longer. I believe it will take more time as new EVs are quite expensive in the Estonian context. Even a Tesla costing €40,000, not to mention an €80,000 Audi is still expensive in Estonia."
Around ten companies carry Tesla vehicles in Estonia.
New Teslas have mainly been imported from the Netherlands, while the carmaker also opened a factory in Germany this summer.
Priit Ärmpalu said that people in Estonia usually ask for a Tesla made in Europe as U.S. cars are believed to have worse build quality. He added that while he has no information to suggest that's true, myths of Tesla cars clanking and rattling as they go do not really apply to current models.
City Motors also sources new Teslas from the Netherlands and used cars from there and Germany. Customers prefer low mileage cars that still have a warranty.
Editor: Marcus Turovski