Tesla CEO Elon Musk told investors on an annual shareholders call last week that the brand would dabble in advertising for the first time in its 20-year history. And by dabble, Musk meant release a two minute long ad featuring a customer in Singapore singing the praises of her Tesla Model 3.
Tesla Asia’s official account would like you to meet Felicia, a branch manager in the financial industry living in Singapore. She’s going to tell you all about her Model 3 — specifically, how safe it is, how clean it is, and how good it is for her family:
It’s a perfectly straightforward and serviceable ad, though a little long and tedious and filled with old fashioned tropes about women and car buying (this car just feels different, she intuitively knows this Tesla is a good car plus it is practical for a mother). What Tesla’s first commercial doesn’t focus on is its advanced driver assistance system Autopilot or even Full Self-Driving Beta. In fact, the crown jewels of Tesla’s automotive empire are never mentioned in the video besides a brief explanation of the benefits of Autosteer, just one of the features available on the Model 3.
This little Tesla Model 3 sells for under $40,000 in the U.S. as of this writing. But in Singapore, where Felicia lives, Tesla’s best attempt at an economy car runs $165,720 USD, according to Channel News Asia. That’s because Singapore is the most expensive place in the world to own a car.
In Singapore, if you want to buy a car, you need to get a Certificate of Entitlement (COE) in order to register it. But you don’t just purchase a COE, instead, there is an extensive bidding process for one. Twice a month, an open bidding exercise opens where residents can put in for a COE. The government announces how many COEs for how many categories of vehicles they will offer. Once you win a COE you hold on to it for ten years. After that, you can deregister your COE or renew it. A successful bid can often cost tens of thousands of dollars, according to the Straits Times.
It took a while for Tesla to crack into the Singapore market. Tesla has accused the government in Singapore for being unfairly against electric vehicles in the past. In 2019, Musk called Singapore unwelcoming towards EVs as the reason the company was not yet selling cars in the city-state. The company delivered its first car to a customer in Singapore in 2021 and since then is doing alright for itself, becoming the eighth best selling brand in the country in February of 2023, according to CleanTechnica.
Tesla made a super long ad using worn-out tropes about what women want in cars (women who historically are less likely to adopt EVs or return to EVs after owning one and are also put off by Teslas in general) in a country where its most basic model is a luxury item in order to sell a few dozen more cars. Good luck on any future commercials Tesla, you’re gonna need it.