Tesla’s entrance into India took a giant step backward as Government officials shot down the potential for import duty reductions on Monday. Attempting to enter the Indian automotive market with its sustainable vehicles, Tesla has petitioned for lower import taxes before committing to a Gigafactory in India. Still, the automaker and the government seem to be having trouble working on an agreement that would keep both parties interested.
After applying for and receiving two business licenses in India, Tesla seemed to be working toward an imminent entrance into the market. Rumors of a potential Gigafactory India have echoed through the community of well-known followers of Elon Musk, but the Tesla CEO shot down any potential of the automaker establishing production lines in the country in July.
Elon Musk: If Tesla can be successful with imports, India Gigafactory “likely”
“If Tesla is able to succeed with imported vehicles, then a factory in India is quite likely,” Musk Tweeted on July 23rd. Essentially, this statement eliminated any potential for a Tesla Gigafactory in India if the automaker could not first test demand for its products in the country. A smart move financially, Tesla spends hundreds of millions, even billions of dollars on production facilities. It would be a big gamble for the young and quickly-charging automaker to establish a full-blown residency in India without any sort of real-world data hinting toward robust demand. The government is willing to let import duties be lightened to 40%, as long as Tesla commits to building a factory in India at some point. This requirement throws a wrench into Tesla’s plans, as it is not willing to agree to these terms currently.
If Tesla is able to succeed with imported vehicles, then a factory in India is quite likely.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) July 23, 2021
“No such proposal is under consideration”: Minister
Now, Minister Krishan Pal Gurjar says that there is no talk of the government considering a reduction of import duties. On Monday, he told Parliament (via Bloomberg):
“No such proposal is under consideration in Ministry of Heavy Industries.”
Government ministries are currently run under Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who has emphasized tremendous support for local manufacturing efforts. The government, at this time, seems unwilling to consider reduced import duties or Tesla’s import plans at all because local manufacturing has taken priority.
India is not a country with a robust history of electrification, either. EVs accounted for less than 1% of annual car sales, despite being Asia’s third-largest country. Additionally, EVs are not in heavy demand in India due to higher production costs and minimal charging infrastructure, Maruti Suzuki India Ltd., Chairman R.C. Bhargava said in an annual report released earlier today. “Unfortunately, the technology presently available leads to electric cars being produced at a cost much higher than the conventional cars. This, along with the lack of charging infrastructure, makes it very difficult to sell electric cars to people who can only afford small cars.”
Import Duties are Getting in the Way
Imports are a tough thing to get by for consumers in India. Because of the heavy import duties the country has applied on vehicles, many consumers are unwilling to spend what the tax adds on to the price of the car. For vehicles under $40,000, import duties are 60%. Any car that costs more than that is subject to a 100% tax, doubling the price of the car.
This has been perhaps Tesla’s only barrier for entering the market as a vehicle manufacturer without building a factory there. Tesla already could export vehicles from Giga Shanghai to India, but few are willing to pay the massive price tag that comes with the car due to the duties. It is unknown what Tesla will do moving forward, but the automaker and the Indian government seem to be playing a game of chicken, seeing who will make the give up potential requests to move toward a deal.