By Soo-hyang Choi and Heekyong Yang
SEOUL (Reuters) – Tesla chief executive Elon Musk said on Wednesday that South Korea was among its top candidate locations for a factory it plans to build in Asia for making electric vehicles (EVs), according to South Korea’s presidential office.
Musk had made the remark in a video call with President Yoon Suk-yeol, adding that the company planned to step up cooperation with South Korea on supply chains, Yoon’s office said.
As Yoon was aware of Tesla’s plans to build a factory in Asia in the future, his office said, Yoon asked Musk to build the factory in South Korea.
In response, Musk said he considered South Korea to be one of the top candidates and would make the decision after reviewing investment conditions in other countries, including labour quality, technology level and production infrastructure.
Tesla was not immediately available for comment outside U.S. business hours when contacted by Reuters.
“We expect to buy components worth more than $10 billion from South Korean firms in 2023 as we significantly expand supply chain cooperation with South Korean companies,” Yoon’s office quoted Musk as saying.
The contact between Yoon and Musk comes ahead of a criminal trial about to begin in South Korea that hangs on questions about the safety of Tesla cars, at a time when the EV maker faces a range of lawsuits and increased scrutiny by regulators.
Yoon said in the discussion he would reform unreasonable regulations that hindered investment by global tech companies, according to Yoon’s office. The president added that the government would continue its effort to attract investment from high-tech companies to enhance the country’s competitiveness.
Indonesia, India and other government are already lobbying to win Tesla’s next investment in EV production.
In August, Indonesian President Joko Widodo urged Tesla to make EVs in the country. The president and senior government officials held meetings earlier this year with Musk, during which they said they had asked him to consider the Southeast Asian country as a car manufacturing hub, on top of making batteries.
South Korea’s LG Energy Solution Ltd supplies Tesla with batteries, as do Japan’s Panasonic Corp Holding and China’s Contemporary Amperex Technology Co .
Analysts said Tesla could work closely with such South Korean suppliers as Samsung Electronics Co Ltd and LG Innotek Co Ltd if it built the factory in the country.
(Reporting by Soo-hyang Choi and Heekyong Yang; Editing by Muralikumar Anantharaman and Bradley Perrett)