By on October 2, 2020

On Friday, Tesla CEO Elon Musk said the automaker was planning to enter the Indian market in 2021. “Next year for sure,” Musk said in a Twitter response that included a photograph of a T-shirt indicating that “India Wants/Loves Tesla.”

The original poster is probably correct in that assumption, too. While Indian vehicle prices average around the U.S. equivalent of $7,400, many models can be had for far cheaper. Vehicle ownership is also extremely limited, with only around 25 in 1,000 people able to afford one. But Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari said the nation had a plan to ensure 15 percent of all new vehicle sales were electric by 2023.

That sounded insanely ambitious to our years when we first heard it in 2018, especially considering India’s original plan called for the same number by 2030 and seemed similarly unrealistic. Central planning rarely goes as mapped but it’s all the rage in most nations now that it can be tied to progressive looking environmental reforms.

But it’s what India wants and, with Tesla being the top dog in delivering desirable electric vehicles, there’s little reason to think the nation won’t attempt to cut it a favorable deal once there’s something on the table. At present, the country strategy plans limit the registrations of gasoline and diesel cars and incentivize the sale of electric vehicles  primarily those used for commercial or government-owned fleets.

While there was never much talk about subsiding privately owned EVs, Indian manufacturers are practically begging the government to help incentivize purchasing as the once-growing market has stagnated after the pandemic. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

Elon Musk is famously “optimistic” which his predictions. In fact, there’s always the faint aroma of bullshit circulating throughout the automotive industry and it’s currently concentrated among the electric vehicle brands. Even though Tesla appears to be among the most trustworthy, and has proven it can deliver on the truly important promises, getting things going in India by next year would be quite the achievement. Besides, Musk already said he wanted to open shop in India both 2019 and 2020.

The company’s cheapest product also runs about $35,000 here in North America, which seems steep for everyone but the most affluent Indians. But it has developed more affordable versions of the Model 3 for the Chinese market (wow, thanks for the hookup) and claims improvements in its own battery technologies and manufacturing strategies will allow for a $25,000 electric car in just three years. Though that might not matter as Twitter users responding to Musk’s India comment said they’d happily sell their wives to gain access to Tesla products.

[Image: Jag_cz/Shutterstock]

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14 Comments on “Elon Musk Says Tesla to Enter India ‘Next Year’...”


  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    Seems do-able.

    Unless they are all spoken for, Tesla’s China plant could ship Model 3s to India today, and Berlin will be on line next year.

    And it turns out that 1/3 of exported cars from the US are Teslas – more than any other car mfr.

    Despite the price disparity, Tesla outsells many other cheaper brands in the US market, too. “Gotta have it” trumps “affordable” many times, which is why F-150s outsell Mirages.

    • 0 avatar
      mcs

      I think Shanghai is slammed right now. Also, kind of interesting that instead of an article about Tesla delivering 139k cars this quarter, we get an article based on a tweet from Musk about India. Maybe that article is still being written.

  • avatar
    Lou_BC

    “Tesla to Enter India”

    Sounds like a porno.

    All kidding aside, it is all fine and dandy to point out that the majority of Indians can’t afford a Tesla but I seriously doubt that Musk is going to be mass producing battery powered 3 wheeled closed body rickshaws. He’ll sell to the wealthy and then move downwind to more plebeian models.

    • 0 avatar
      RHD

      The market in India would rapidly accept an inexpensive and capable electric car that could replace scooters, tuk-tuks and Tatas. If you have ever seen traffic in any city in India, you’d see that large sedans really don’t belong there. (Search for it on YouTube!)
      Replacing all those 2-cycle engines with electric motors would do wonders for air quality, as well. It will happen some day, but not nearly soon enough.

  • avatar
    Ralahamy

    Elon Musk is a bigger disrupter than Steve Job. Century old ICE industry and transport will slowly disappear in the next 10 years.

  • avatar
    Ralahamy

    Elon Musk is a bigger disrupter than Steve Job. Century old ICE industry and transport will slowly disappear in the next 10 years.

  • avatar
    Garak

    With the global economy in a deep recession, any talk about expanding into new markets seems like wishful thinking.

    • 0 avatar
      Luke42

      Tesla is growing during the current clusterf*ck.

      There are winners and losers in a recession.

    • 0 avatar
      aja8888

      Who the hell in India is going to afford a Tesla. Last time I was there, most people could not afford to buy food. Ever see a fat person in India? The fat ones are all here in the states.

      • 0 avatar
        Arthur Dailey

        With a 117 billionaires in India and a large and growing middle class, India is actually a good market for a Tesla type of vehicle.

      • 0 avatar
        Luke42

        The richest 25% of Indians is a population roughly equal to the population of the United States.

        The children of rich Indians that I’ve met here in the US all have large families back home.

        India has huge income inequality problems — but there are a lot of rich people who live there. The difference is the ratio of poor people to rich people.

        • 0 avatar
          Lou_BC

          Exactly. Many make the incorrect assumption that all of India is poor. China for example has a middle class larger than the entire population of the USA. Both India and China have around 4 times the population of the USA.

  • avatar
    HotPotato

    The article says the Indian government is interested in seeing electric vehicles in corporate and government fleets — it doesn’t sound like they foresee much adoption by private buyers at this time.

    This sounds a lot like “India wants the prestige of being part of the hottest techy industry, bolstered by attracting the most prestigious and credible player in that industry, so they’re going to throw money at Tesla to make it happen.”

    It does not sound like “India has a realistic and meaningful plan to reduce emissions, of which this is a key part.” If that were the case, they’d be moving from coal to nuclear and solar, getting reliable electricity to everyone regardless of income, converting two-stroke scooters and tuk-tuks to electric power, etc.

    Benefits for Tesla are debatable but potentially numerous. They could harvest lots of incentives from that prestige-seeking government. They might not have much of a market within India right away, but they’d have an early-mover advantage as that slowly changes, since protectionist policy means that selling in India requires building in India…and they could export most production meanwhile. I suspect they’d be screwed by favoritism for Tata regardless once there’s real money to be made domestically anyway, but who knows. They could set up an R&D center: India generates loads of English-speaking STEM graduates who work relatively cheap.

    However, I’m not sure cars is really where it’s at for Tesla in India. Sunshine smiles on Tesla’s solar panels. Spotty electricity delivery smiles on Tesla’s battery backup banks. Big corporations and government agencies can see benefit in that, and pay money for it.

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