BMW, the world's top "premium" car brand in both sales and brand recognition, probably never thought it would be up against a newcomer like Tesla, but the situation today is that the German carmaker may indeed have something to fear.
"We won't say BMW perceives Tesla as a rival, but it is closely watching the company," said one industry source close to the matter.
Tesla, on the other hand, appeared to be nonchalant and fearless, with the CEO Elon Musk commenting that "there's room to improve on the i3, and I hope that they do," about the release of the i3, BMW's first electric vehicle.
An odd match, but the two are emerging as probable rivals in the electric car segment.
For Korean consumers, the rivalry between BMW and Tesla may not have immediate impact, but could have more meaning for suppliers such as Samsung SDI, which is expected to soon be providing lithium ion batteries to Tesla. SDI already supplies to BMW for the i series.
Volkswagen is also rumored to be receiving batteries from the Korean battery maker.
"The competition won't be all bad, especially if and when the electric car market grows bigger, in which case the total pie would get larger for local suppliers," said one industry expert.
Tesla, for the time being, has said it does not perceive Korea as a potential market due to its lack of infrastructure for electrically powered vehicles.