NEW DELHI (Reuters): India is ready to offer incentives to ensure Tesla Inc’s cost of production would be less than in China if the carmaker commits to making its electric vehicles in the South Asian country, transport minister Nitin Gadkari told Reuters.
Gadkari’s pitch comes weeks after billionaire Elon Musk’s Tesla registered a company in India in a step towards entering the country, possibly as soon as mid-2021. Sources familiar with the matter have said Tesla plans to start by importing and selling its Model 3 electric sedan in India.
“Rather than assembling (the cars) in India they should make the entire product in the country by hiring local vendors. Then we can give higher concessions,” Gadkari said in an interview, without giving details of what incentives would be on offer.
“The government will make sure the production cost for Tesla will be the lowest when compared with the world, even China, when they start manufacturing their cars in India. We will assure that,” he said.
India wants to boost local manufacturing of electric vehicles (EVs), batteries and other components to cut costly imports and curb pollution in its major cities.
This comes amid a global race by carmakers to jump-start EV production as countries work towards cutting carbon emissions.
But India faces a big challenge to win a production commitment from Tesla, which did not immediately respond to an email requesting comment about its plans in the country.
India’s fledgling EV market accounted for just 5,000 out of a total 2.4 million cars sold in the country last year as negligible charging infrastructure and the high cost of EVs deterred buyers.
In contrast, China, where Tesla already makes cars, sold 1.25 million new energy passenger vehicles, including EVs, in 2020 out of total sales of 20 million, and accounted for more than a third of Tesla’s global sales.
India also doesn’t have a comprehensive EV policy like China, the world’s biggest auto market, which mandates companies to invest in the sector.
Gadkari said that as well as being a big market, India could be an export hub, especially with about 80% of components for lithium-ion batteries being made locally now. “I think it’s a win-win situation for Tesla,” Gadkari said, adding he also wanted to engage with Tesla about building an ultra-high-speed hyperloop between Delhi and Mumbai.