Although Tesla Model 3 is the #1 selling imported electric car in Japan, it’s not making the impact that it should have in the country.
A Tesla Model 3 owner from Japan has shared his views on the Teslamotors subreddit on why the car or other Teslas have not been a striking success story in one of the most advanced and well-developed countries in the world.
Since this is a small country and open land is scarce, especially in the cities, the houses are small — and Teslas are too wide to be easily parked in a regular garage.
Even a Model 3 which is the smallest car in the current Tesla lineup is too wide for the space available for parking in city houses. Reddit user u/Screw_Hegemony shared a couple of pictures of his Tesla Model 3 parked at his home in Tokyo. These pictures show that how tightly the Model 3 has to be parked in this limited space and this is a widespread problem for potential Tesla customers.
The width of the Tesla Model 3 (without mirrors) is 1,849 mm and most parking lots in Japan are 1,850 mm wide. This leaves only 1 mm of margin and some extraordinary parking skills to park the car at a shopping mall, restaurant, or public place.
Due to the scarcity of land in the city areas, around half of Japan’s population lives in apartment buildings and most places have platform parking which has its own specifications and limitations attached.
According to a recent survey, just over half of the Japanese population is not interested in EVs, and those who are, like Tesla Model 3 the most. But the dimensions of this car are putting a cap on its sales besides its popularity in the country.
Japan clearly needs a smaller Tesla vehicle that is currently going through the initial design and development phase at the Tesla Design Center in Gigafactory Shanghai, China. However, Tesla or its CEO Elon Musk has not yet promised an unveiling date for this smaller and more affordable Tesla yet.
Here’s the detailed point-of-view of the Tesla Model 3 from Japan and why he thinks the Silicon Valley-based automaker is struggling for much-deserved success in this part of the world.
DISCLAIMER: I am aware that Tesla is a relatively new company that can’t just start making 10 different models off the bat. I am also aware that they are working on a more compact model at the Chinese plant and that will hopefully turn things around.
I live in Tokyo and my family is currently considering which EV to buy. A Tesla is obviously one of the options, but the reason we’re hesitant:
They’re Too Freaking Wide
I know they had the Japan market in mind when they made the Model 3 1849 mm in width, but here are the problems it still causes.
1. Japanese city parking lots. Most are the kind like you see in Tokyo Drift where each car has its own platform, and max width is usually 1850 mm. The smallest model having a margin of 1mm necessitates some virtuoso parking skill every time you want to go shopping in your car. Models S, X, and Y aren’t even a viable option for city dwellers.
2. Streets. Japanese cities are not like most US cities where the roads are straight and wide and go on for light years. Most Japanese neighborhoods and cities were laid out and densely populated (some even overcrowded) centuries before automobiles were invented, and as such have narrow roads with many bends that aren’t optimal for cars to begin with. This is why makes that have a wide reach such as the Corolla have different widths depending on the market, and the Japanese market version typically has the smallest width.
3. Housing conditions. Again, it’s not like American cities where middle class families have houses in the suburbs. More than half of the total population live in the Tokaido Megalopolis that include Tokyo, Osaka and Nagoya. The city is too big for there to be any suburbs, and land tends to be pricey in any city, so the end result is that half of the national population live in apartments. Again, these buildings tend to have platform parking spaces, which means you’ll be scraping your car just to get in and out of your house, too much of a hassle for most.
Now, some points that didn’t apply to us but is a huge part of people avoiding Teslas:
1. Housing conditions. As mentioned above, half of the population live in apartments. Even if the building had a flat parking lot, you couldn’t just install a charger as you please. Also, again most city buildings have platform parking (if any), so the only time you have access to your car is when you want to get it out. Makes it quite difficult to charge while parked, and logistically as well, it’s far more complicated than just plugging it into a wall.
2. Most people don’t drive daily. Actually, this is true for us as well, but most people don’t commute by car because there’s no parking space at work. Public transport is good enough for most, which is why they don’t have cars to begin with. In fact, there are only 0.23 cars per capita in Tokyo (the entire prefecture, not just the city). Case in point: our next-door neighbors have a parking space, but no car. Let’s face it, walking/biking is a way cheaper emissions-free mode of transportation than an EV, and it’s only a five minute walk to the nearest subway station. Basically the cost is hard to justify for a lot of people.
3. The people that do drive daily live in the countryside, even though Tesla infrastructure is focused on the cities. I do get Tesla’s purpose here; it doesn’t make sense to start installing superchargers in sparsely populated areas, even if a larger portion of the residents drive daily. However, if you consider the cities that dot the “countryside”… out of the four main islands, the “main” one that has the megalopolis in it has most (~30) of the chargers, the second most populated (has Fukuoka and Nagasaki) has three, the third most populated, Hokkaido (has Sapporo) has ONE (NOT in Sapporo), and the least populated has a whopping ZERO superchargers. Even on the main island, if you lived on the North West side (as opposed to the South East that has the Tokaido Megalopolis), that whole half of the island has a grand total of one supercharger. The mountain range that divides those two halves of the country don’t help either.
The government is going all out with the funds to aggressively cut down on CO2 emissions (I mean we get approx. 17k USD in grants and tax incentives if we buy an EV now), so hopefully we’ll see developments in the near future that enable EVs to run on smaller batteries, but for now it’s unfortunately a very niche market.Original post: u/Screw_Hegemony via Teslamotors subreddit
Tesla CEO Elon Musk even said last year that the $25k compact Tesla hatchback might even be designed in Germany. This is possible as most European cities also need a smaller car to easily navigate and park.