Tesla’s request for import tax reductions in India has government officials thinking about the possibility of rolling back the costly duties, sources say.
For years, Tesla has been trying to figure out a way to enter the Indian automotive market. It has gotten quite serious this year, especially after Tesla has obtained business licenses and fans in the country are requesting that CEO Elon Musk make it happen more than ever before. Things seemed to be working in the right direction, that is until Tesla started lobbying for import duty reductions in July, a request that was shot down and barely considered by some officials.
“No such proposal is under consideration in Ministry of Heavy Industries,” Minister Krishan Pal Gurjar said in early August, speaking of possible reductions of import duties. The duties currently affect any vehicle that needs to be imported and subjects cars under $40,000 to a 60% tax. Anything more expensive than that is subjected to a 100% tax, doubling the cost of the car.
This effectively has Tesla and Indian government officials at a standstill. CEO Elon Musk stated that Tesla would not produce cars at a production facility in India until it can test demand through imports.
“If Tesla is able to succeed with imported vehicles, then a factory in India is quite likely,” Musk tweeted on July 23rd. The dismissiveness to rollback import duties affects Tesla’s ability to test demand as many customers are either unwilling or unable to pay the vehicle’s price and pay the hefty duties on top of the cost of the car.
Reuters is reporting that Indian government officials are considering slashing import duties from 60% to 40% for sub-$40,000 vehicles and 100% to 60% for cars over the $40k threshold. If the change is made, Tesla will likely have more opportunities to test demand, which could open up the possibility for Gigafactory India in the future.
“We haven’t firmed up the reduction in duties yet, but there are discussions that are ongoing,” one official said in the report. In just a week, officials have gone from “there are no discussions” to “there are discussions that are ongoing.” Evidently, India may have realized the potential benefits of allowing electric automakers, like Tesla, to test demand in their country. Automakers from various corners of the world may flock to India for production facilities and potential sales, especially as the country has one of the largest automotive markets globally.
India has the fifth-largest concentration of annual vehicle sales, with about three million units sold every year. However, Reuters said that a majority of the vehicles are priced under $20,000. EVs only account for less than 1% of the market share in the country.
With a heavy focus on increasing local manufacturing to boost the country’s economy, India’s government officials have been dismissive of allowing more imported vehicles across the borders. Now officials state that reducing import duties won’t be an issue. Still, there needs to be advantages for the government and local suppliers and not just the automakers selling the cars.
“Reducing import duties is not a problem as not many EVs are imported in the country. But we need some economic gain out of that. We also have to balance the concerns of the domestic players,” one official stated.