Israel approves Tesla’s import license: what cars will hit the streets?

After months of delay, the U.S. automaker receives the green light to begin widescale import

Tomer Hadar 17:4206.01.21
Israel’s Ministry of Transportation has officially approved the commercial import of Tesla vehicles. According to the ministry’s announcement: "The Ministry of Transportation has granted electric vehicle manufacturer Tesla a direct importer's license that allows the regular import of Tesla models, after meeting all the requirements of the Ministry of Transportation, including the establishment of a service center that includes equipment, instruments, and personnel trained to maintain imported Tesla models.”


The decision means that the U.S. auto manufacturer can import an unlimited number of cars instead of the 20 it was permitted under a temporary license. Unlike other car manufacturers that operate in Israel through local importers, Tesla decided to set up its own operation in the country.


Tesla founder Elon Musk. Photo: AFP Tesla founder Elon Musk. Photo: AFP

The main factor that was holding Tesla back up until now, was its lack of a central service station, which is a mandatory requirement. Now that the company has built such a center in the central Israel city of Petah Tikva, import has officially been approved.


The ministry’s announcement stipulated that three of Tesla’s models, the Model S, Model 3, and Model X are permitted for import, making no mention of the compact Model Y.


Tesla’s penetration in Israel will not be limited to the car market either. It plans to also enter the energy storage market.


As wasreported earlier this week, Tesla had requested the ministry to delay issuing its import license.


Tesla’s entrance to the Israeli market was a shaky one, featuring several U-turns. The first Tesla vehicles that arrived were required to undergo individual licensing, a procedure normally reserved for vehicles that are imported privately. Delays in approval and the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic meant it had to cancel contracts it had signed with two locations it had planned to display its vehicles. The company also suffered from a personnel issue, after its general manager, Ilan Benano, a former executive at Colmobil (importer of Mercedes-Benz) and Champion Motors (importer of Volkswagen), who was recruited in January 2020 to set up Tesla Israel's service center, left the position six months later partly because he couldn’t attend required training in Europe.


Despite all that, the company is likely to find high demand for its vehicles in Israel since it offers features that existing suppliers don’t and Israelis are unaccustomed to, such as OTA (over the airways) upgrades, and many customization options.