Tesla CEO Elon Musk says the automaker will first import vehicles to India to determine the success of the company’s imminent entrance into the country. The success Tesla has with importing vehicles will directly determine whether the company decides to build a Gigafactory in India, Musk said.
“If Tesla is able to succeed with imported vehicles, then a factory in India is quite likely,” Musk said on Twitter yesterday. However, Tesla has several barriers to work through until the import of electric cars becomes a realistic possibility.
Yesterday, Teslarati reported that Tesla was writing letters to various Ministries in India requesting a reduction on import duties on electric vehicles. Because of Tesla’s current predicament, importing vehicles into the market is not cost-effective, nor is it realistic, as many vehicles would be subject to a 100% tax. Vehicles under the $40,000 threshold have a 60% tax applied, while any vehicle over that limit has a full 100% tax applied to the cost of the vehicle. This effectively doubles the cost of the car, making many of the vehicles that are not produced by local companies entirely too expensive for the average person.
Tesla is likely attempting to have electric vehicles be subjected to a smaller import duty as the sustainable powertrains the automaker builds would contribute to India’s ongoing pollution crisis. However, some politicians will be tough to convince of the reduced import taxes, as they help with local manufacturing efforts.
This is where things get sticky for Tesla. Despite obviously wanting to enter another highly-concentrated automotive market with tons of potential, there comes an extreme risk with building a factory in a country where demand cannot realistically be tested. Because of the current import duties, Tesla cannot attain any meaningful information or data on whether a massive investment into a Gigafactory in India would be worth it. An investment that will likely cost the company hundreds of millions of dollars, Gigafactory India would likely do well. However, there is a big difference between the number of people who say they will buy a car and the number of those who actually will.
Because of this situation, Tesla really cannot make any moves in India until the import duties are reduced for electric cars. This does not bode well for the many people who have been requesting Tesla’s presence in the country for years, but it is unlikely this situation gets figured out in a matter of weeks or months. It could end up dragging out the process, delaying Tesla’s Indian entrance for even more time.
Despite this, Tesla has the correct licenses to operate as an automotive manufacturer. Earlier this year, Tesla received two approvals to operate as a manufacturer of vehicles, along with a license to sell its vehicles. Musk hopes for at least temporary tariff relief, he says, and it would likely give the company sufficient evidence to either build or relocate its next Gigafactory.