In Russia, Wealthy Muscovites Are Going to Extreme Lengths to Own a Tesla Model S Electric Car

Since the Tesla Model S luxury electric sedan was first launched in 2012, Tesla Motors has been almost continually building and opening new Tesla Stores and Galleries where potential customers can find out more about owning an electric car, while simultaneously expanding the number of service centres and supercharger sites that it operates around the globe to keep existing customers’ cars well maintained and fully charged.

There's not a single Tesla retail location in the Russian Federation

There’s not a single Tesla retail location in the Russian Federation

The result? The Tesla Model S is now sold in more than 19 different countries around the world, with buyers in the U.S. and Canada, the majority of Europe, China, Japan and Australia all now able to find at least one Tesla Store in their native country where they can purchase the world’s most desirable production electric car.

One country not on the list? Russia, where Tesla Motors [NASDAQ:TSLA] says it is currently unable to provide warranty, charging solutions, service or import services for citizens who wish to dump the pump for the super-sexy sedan. To make matters worse, current sanctions levied by the international community against Russia for its military actions in Ukraine means those who have the cash to buy a Tesla and import it as a grey-market vehicle are going to extraordinary lengths to own a Model S. Indeed, Russia’s elite are spending upwards of $12,000 to fly Model S cars to Russia, and then a further $50,000 to clear customs.

As Bloomberg reports, rich Russians are begging Elon Musk to bring Tesla Motors to the country, with many spending impossibly large sums to drive the “iPhone on wheels” on Russian roads.

Russia’s elite are spending upwards of $12,000 to fly Model S cars to Russia, and then a further $50,000 to clear customs.

Take Andrey Vratskiy for example. A 33-year old software executive, Vratskiy wanted a Tesla model S so much that he flew to the U.S. two years ago in order to purchase a Tesla Model S there, then dropped an eye-watering $12,000 to fly it to Moscow. On arrival in the Russian Federation, Vratskiy then found himself facing a $50,000 customs charge before he could license the car.

At the time, he recounts that he felt like an endangered species, with very few other Tesla owners in the entire country. Now he reports that there are more than 250 other Model S cars being driven in Russia, with the fan club he founded for the car now showing a healthy membership.

The Model S can cope with the harsh Russian winters -- it just isn't sold there.

The Model S can cope with the harsh Russian winters — it just isn’t sold there.

Other owners are reported to include billionaire businessman Roman Abramovich as well as the heads of two of Russia’s biggest banks, Herman Gref and Andrei Akimov. Ivan Streshinsky, an executive who manages most of Alisher Usamov’s $14 billion portfolio as head of USM advisors, refers to the luxury electric car as the purest of gadgets.

Gref, who Bloomberg reports served as economy minister for President Vladimir Putin during the premiere’s first two terms, says that even though the sanctions levied against Russia by the U.S. and many other influential international players make international banking tough, nothing can stop him from enjoying his Model S.

“It doesn’t pollute nature and it’s super cheap and easy to use,” he told the news outlet via email.

But while Vratskiy and the many fans that Tesla has in Russia — more than 100,000 are said to follow Elon Musk’s unofficial social media page online — almost continually beg Tesla to expand into the Russian marketplace as it did with China, Tesla’s response has been a resolute ‘No’ thus far.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk has ties with the Pentagon which could make Russian-sales of the Model S complicated. (Photo: CC-2.0, Steve Jurvetson)

Tesla CEO Elon Musk has ties with the Pentagon which could make Russian-sales of the Model S complicated. (Photo: CC-2.0, Steve Jurvetson)

With just 300 registered electric vehicle on the roads of Russia — a ratio of approximately one electric car per 48 million inhabitants — Tesla could stand to make some significant money from Russian sales, especially if it focused on servicing the needs of the super-rich Moscow bourgeois. But while Tesla has the ability should it wish to establish itself in Russia, the ties its CEO Elon Musk have make it something of a complicated process.

That’s because SpaceX, another firm Musk is CEO of, recently won U.S. Air Force certification to conduct military missions for the United States. Approved to work for the U.S. military, any connection with Russia would prove complicated. Indeed its own certification occurred at the same time a joint venture between Boeing Co. and Lockheed Martin Corp. to provide services to the U.S. Air Force was being limited due to the use of Russian-made rockets in its vehicles.

For now then, it seems that Russians will find themselves facing a tough paper trail to own their dream electric car. And with the costs associated with importing a Tesla Model S so impossibly high — not to mention a complete lack of Supercharger availability anywhere across the nation — owning and driving one will remain the preserve of Russia’s wealthiest 1 percent.

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  • IronicSuperDave

    Since Russia does not have a population of 14 billion people, I guess you mean 1 electric car per 480 thousand inhabitants.

  • Michael Thwaite

    Hmm, sold more Model S into Russia than Hyundai have sold Tucson in an open market… just sayin’

    • vdiv

      When you can recharge the Model S by towing it with a truck for a 100 km the lack of infrastructure of either sort doesn’t seem to be an issue 🙂

  • vdiv

    Not sure why they have to fly the car all the way from the US as the closest Tesla Store is probably in Vienna. This way they will also get the European features (Mennekes socket with 3-phase, amber turn signals, etc.).

    • ty

      Perhaps Helsinki is closer, it is only 386 Km from Sint Petersbourg by the E18.