Tesla doesn’t have a sales network in Russia but that hasn’t stopped wealthy citizens from buying its vehicles and setting up a fan club in the country. Tesla founder Elon Musk’s unofficial social media page is followed by nearly 100,000 Russians. The fact that Tesla is focused on promoting its vehicles in China and in other markets has not dissuaded the Russians from going to great expense and effort to bring the car home.
For example, 33-year-old software executive Andrey Vratskiy had to pay nearly double for a $75,000 Tesla S. He had wanted to replace his BMW X6. He bought the Tesla sedan in the U.S. and it cost him $12,000 to have it flown to Moscow, where he had to pay $50,000 for it to get past customs. When Vratskiy bought his car two years ago, he couldn’t see any other Tesla on the road.
But now, the fan club he started has gained dozens of members and they’re quickly increasing in number. Another proud Tesla Model S owner is Ivan Streshinskiy, who heads USM Advisors. He said that his car is “pure gadget” similar to an “iPhone on wheels.” He purchased a white Model S last summer. He is now looking for a red one.
Among the other notable owners are billionaire Roman Abramovich and big-time lenders Herman Gref and Andrei Akimov, who are the heads of OAO Sberbank and OAO Gazprombank, respectively. Gref was Vladimir Putin’s economy minister for his first two terms. In an email, he wrote that the Tesla car he owns “doesn’t pollute nature and it’s super cheap and easy to use.”
Vratskiy said that if Tesla paid any attention to Russia, it would realize that there’s a wealthy and prominent group of potential customers in the country that are fans of Tesla. He estimated that it would be easy to achieve annual sales of 2,000 Model S sedans and 2,000 of its upcoming Model X sport utility vehicles in Russia.
Last year, Musk went on a promotional tour in Beijing and Shanghai where he was welcome by elated crowds. Russia, which has a population of 144 million, has only 300 registered EVs (excluding Teslas since they’re not officially sold in the country). In Estonia (which has 1.3 million people), there are 1,200 EVs.