Abu Dhabi resident Alex Sanders already owns a 2015 Tesla Model S P90D Ludicrous, which cost nearly Dh500,000, including the shipping and import charges.
It also cost him a fair amount of patience while trying to get it registered.
After he bought the car more than a year ago, the clerk checking it in Dubai tried to find the engine and wanted to remove the liner from the front trunk.
“The guy had to call his supervisor who had to call his supervisor,” Mr Sanders said. “The third guy passed the car.”
When he registered it in Abu Dhabi, the mechanic tried to stick in a probe to measure the amount of exhaust coming from the car but couldn’t find the pipe.
“And then they delayed me for an extra hour while they added the model to the system – which they got wrong,” Mr Sanders said.
His car is modified, but he believes the Government should provide incentives to encourage residents to take up electric vehicles.
“If the UAE Government waives the import duty it will be cheaper,” said Mr Sanders, who paid more than Dh23,000 in fees. “Not having tax in the first place leaves a little room for the Government to manoeuvre.”
Despite his misgivings, for the country’s diehard electric car fans, news of Tesla’s launch in the UAE could not have come quickly enough.
Berend Lens van Rijn, who runs Belevari Marine yacht providers in Abu Dhabi, travelled to the Tesla launch party in the Armani Hotel on Monday night on his electric bicycle, which he had ridden from Dubai’s World Trade Centre.
He said he would gladly trade in his BMW 7 Series for one of the electric vehicles, as he cannot justify buying one with current business commitments.
“I was planning on importing an electric car into the UAE but I’m saving my money for a business venture,” Mr van Rijn says. “I’m a huge fan of Tesla. My wife says to me, ‘why are you always on YouTube looking at Tesla?’
“What put me off buying one was lack of funds. As a business owner its difficult to finance a car because if you don’t have a fixed income the banks don’t give you a car loan at 3 per cent.
“But if someone would now trade in my BMW for a Tesla, I’d do it in a heartbeat. The technology is great, it’s a beautiful car to look at, it’s fast, it’s got space, it’s luxurious, it’s everything you’d want in a car plus more.”
Abdullah Al Marzouqi, an Emirati policeman, pre-ordered his Tesla X Model at the launch for Dh488,000.
“Some of my friends have already bought some Teslas from Norway but I’d thought rather wait for the UAE launch. I drive a Toyota Corolla for my work. I don’t have any other car yet.”
He said his car would arrive in Dubai in May.
“I really like Tesla’s technology, and I love the fact that it’s an electric car,” Mr Al Marzouqi said.
“I think Tesla will be hugely popular in the UAE – its already popular. Tesla owners here have a WhatsApp group, they’re all Tesla users, some of them have two or three Teslas. There are about 70 of them from all over the UAE.”
Likewise, the forums and tweets online were buzzing with the news of the company’s arrival in the UAE.
“One thing that I truly miss back in the States is full charge in an hour. Well not any more,” tweeted Hussain Lootah, a confessed petrol head in Dubai.
On the Tesla forums, the topic of whether the US electric car maker would be coming to the UAE has been a hot one among fans for the past two years.
Hamza Al Sharaf, a Bahraini car enthusiast now studying at Cambridge University, once contemplated ordering a Tesla Model S P90D from Europe and having it flown to his home at a cost of Dh600,000 for the car and Dh70,000 for air freight.
“But I was concerned how I would service the car,” he said, and eventually decided against it. He was quick to point out to fellow Tesla forum users around the world, however, just how popular the electric vehicles would be in the oil-producing Gulf region.
“Many people think that since petrol is quite cheap here, no one is going to buy an electric car,” he wrote. “But demand for Tesla in the Middle East, especially the UAE, is high.
“Trust me, in the Gulf a lot of people are rich and they demand a beautiful looking sedan with an acceleration speed of a McLaren F1 and technology of the future.”
Mr Lootah had the opportunity to test-drive a Tesla Model S last February in London, which he says was an unforgettable experience. He is now planning to order his Tesla from the UAE and drive it back to Bahrain.
“As soon as they open they up their dealers and service centres in the UAE, I will be heading there with my father – because he also loves Tesla – and hopefully buying or reserving a Model S,” he says.
“As a matter of fact, the Model 3 is actually available to reserve from the UAE on Tesla’s website, but I didn’t reserve one because I knew that Tesla is soon going to open in the UAE.
“Even if Tesla doesn’t open in Bahrain for now, the UAE is close enough for me to service my car there.”
* The National