The landlocked former East Bloc country of Slovakia is probably one of the hardest countries to own an electric car in. As well as some rather arcane rules on electric car conversions, the average wage in Slovakia of €835 ($1059) per month means most Slovaks can’t afford to buy a brand-new electric car from mainstream automakers like Nissan, Mitsubishi or Tesla, despite the best efforts of companies like Slovak-based GreenWay.
But while Slovakia has few electric cars on her roads, a new rumor suggests that Californian automaker Tesla Motors [NASDAQ:TSLA] is looking to the Central European country as a potential venue for its first European car factory.
As our friends at Radio Slovakia International tell us, Tesla Motors has been in talks with representatives from the Slovak Economy Ministry as well as representatives of other European countries in a hunt for the perfect place to build its first European factory.
While Tesla currently makes it Model S electric car at the former NUMMI facility in Fremont, California and has capacity there to produce up to 500,000 cars a year on that site alone, it has previously stated that it plans to expand production into Europe and Asia in order to maximise its production capabilities. As well as saving on shipping costs, producing cars for the European and Asian markets in Europe and Asia means that Tesla won’t be so vulnerable to fluctuations in exchange rates and may be able to actually sell its cars for less, something Nissan found out when it decentralised production of its LEAF electric car in 2013.
Earlier this year, Tesla CEO Elon Musk confirmed to Automotive News that Tesla was officially on the hunt for a site for its European manufacturing, with the intention of bringing production to Europe as soon as total sales topped 160,000 cars per year, and with Slovakia perfectly positioned in central Europe, the country seems a perfect fit for the Californian automaker.
“The Slovak Agency for Development of Investments and Trade (SARIO) has established contact with Tesla Motors representatives that are considering opening a plant in Europe in the long-term,” ministry spokesperson Miriam Žiaková said in an official statement to the daily Sme.sk at the end of September, but has declined to give any more details yet.
Aside from low wages, Slovakia also has a long and proud tradition of automotive manufacturing. Currently, Volkswagen, Kia and PSA Peugeot Citroen all have automotive factories in Slovakia, with total automotive output from the nation approaching 1 million cars annually. But with other countries including Poland, the Netherlands and the Czech Republic reported to also be under consideration as the home to Tesla’s first European factory, Slovakia now finds itself in a high-stake race similar to the one recently won in Nevada for the privilege of being home to Tesla’s first lithium-ion battery reprocessing and manufacturing Gigafactory.
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