Tesla’s ongoing saga with India’s government officials regarding the potential entrance of the electric car manufacturer into the country is drawing remarks from all sectors. This morning, it was reported that India-based auto suppliers and car part makers want Tesla’s entrance to benefit local suppliers. The only way that can be possible is if Tesla sets up a manufacturing unit in India, which the company is unable to commit to currently.
In July, CEO Elon Musk indicated that Tesla’s potential in India must be measured through importing vehicles before committing to building a massive production facility in the country. The issue with this strategy is that importing cars into India is an expensive process and requires the customer to pay hefty import duties that, in some cases, double the cost of the vehicle. Cars less than $40,000 are subjected to a 60% import tax, while anything more expensive gets a full 100% duty applied. This limits Tesla’s ability to import vehicles into the market because few are willing to pay these expensive fees.
Tesla has petitioned to reduce import duties for electric vehicles, but India’s government is unwilling to budge currently. Favoring domestic and local manufacturing efforts, the current government administration has said on numerous occasions that import duty percentages are unlikely to be changed because it heavily favors local manufacturing efforts.
Auto part suppliers are taking the stance of the Indian government, as well. There is now a domestic debate of whether a reduction of import duties supports local manufacturing.
“We will always promote localization,” the Automotive Component Manufacturers Association (ACMA) president Deepak Jain said, according to Reuters. “We would welcome any foreign or domestic entry, capacity expansions on any vehicle segment as long as it promotes value addition and localization, which gives the opportunity for the component sector to flourish.”
What complicates this issue is that India is known for supporting oil. In a market where electric cars make up less than 1% of the total automotive market, there are questions of whether local companies would be able to fulfill Tesla and other electric automaker’s needs. Batteries are the biggest thing, electric motors being a high-ranking item on the list as well. This would likely require importing these parts to India for the short term.
Jain did say that ACMA is working with the government to see what elements of an EV can be manufactured locally. However, depleting vehicle sales, sliding due to the COVID-19 pandemic are affecting these suppliers. The lack of capital may require these companies to make sizable investments and could be detrimental to a business if they fail.
Tesla is not alone in the fight to reduce Indian import duties. Hyundai and Mercedes-Benz are also attempting to combat the excessive taxes to benefit from sales in the country. “To give confidence to carmakers, if India is able to liberalize the import tax, then companies like Mercedes can test the market and choose to manufacture EV models locally,” Mercedes-Benz India’s VP of Sales and Marketing Santosh Iyer said.