Today, headlines are awash with articles about an Elon Musk tweet in which he said his electric vehicle company would be entering the Indian market next year. This isn’t the first time Tesla has teased that it’s be heading into the Asian nation, and yet it’s still not there; let’s take a look at what’s going on.
Last night, in a thread below a tweet from tech YouTuber MKBHD, Elon Musk replied to an Indian Tesla fan page saying the company would be in the country “next year for sure.”
Next year for sure
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) October 2, 2020
But y’know, this is Elon, he does have a reputation for saying things are coming that take way longer to arrive than he suggests. So we should view this latest assertion as no different to the string of previous times that he’s said Tesla “would be in India soon.”
News that the EV maker was looking to break the Indian market surfaced about four years ago, when the company opened up pre-orders for its Model 3 vehicle in the nation. While some Indian citizens report having made pre-orders, India is no longer listed as a delivery destination on Tesla’s website.
It also started taking pre-orders for Ireland, Singapore, South Korea, and New Zealand, around the same time. These are all currently listed on Tesla’s site.
It’s worth noting as well, that 2016 news spawned from another Elon Musk tweet, in which he promised Model 3 order pages for a bunch of countries. Brazil, India, and South Africa were also mentioned, but at present, aren’t live on Tesla’s website as delivery destinations.
However, according to the Model 3 pre-order page via the wayback machine, India, Brazil, and South Africa were all available. In fact, the Model 3 launch page accepted pre-orders from 49 countries, however, Tesla’s website today only regionalizes itself for service in 34 countries. While pre-order and service regions aren’t exactly the same thing, Tesla can’t deliver cars where there’s no formal sales or service agreement with the specific country.
Fast-forward to 2017, Musk gave his most definitive comment on when his EV company would be in India when he responded to a Twitter user saying he hoped it would happen in summer of that year.
Back in March last year, someone else asked Musk on Twitter when the company could reach India, and he promptly replied to say he’d love it to be this year  if not, definitely next year.
In July of this year, a Twitter user who appears to have pre-ordered a car from India way back in 2016 further asked Musk when the company would finally make it to the Asian nation. Again, Musk replied promptly apologizing and saying it should be “hopefully soon.”
There’s a bit of a theme here. Someone asks Musk on Twitter when, and the enigmatic Tesla frontman says something along the lines of: “It’ll be soon, if not, it’ll be soon after that!”
Sorry, should hopefully be soon!
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) July 10, 2020
All that said, it’s not like India is actively against having Tesla vehicles sold and serviced within its borders.
Representatives from the country’s government and even Prime Minister Narendra Modi has met with the EV maker on numerous occasions.
In 2015, Modi reportedly planned a visit to Tesla’s California base as part of a visit to America. A year later, India’s transport minister spoke with Tesla and even offered the company land to build a factory in their country. The minister hoped this would serve as Tesla’s base for Asian production; we now know that China has that crown for the EV maker.
Last month, reports surfaced that Tesla was in talks to develop a research and development center in India. The country is expected to make a formal proposal to Tesla any day now, so it seems that things are progressing — just at a glacial pace.
Despite the country’s openness to the electric car brand, there are still legislative hurdles left to overcome. For example, India requires some products to source 30% of their materials locally. There are also high tariffs on vehicle imports too, which could make Tesla’s prohibitively expensive in the country.
That’s not to mention the situation regarding the global coronavirus pandemic. India has been one of the hardest hit nations in the world, and while it would surely welcome new business to help boost economic recovery whether that can be carried out safely is a whole other kettle of fish.
India isn’t averse to electric transport, across the 2019 – 2020 financial year, more than 150,000 two-wheeled electric vehicles were sold in the country. However, it isn’t so keen on electric cars, of which just 3,400 electric cars were sold. Compare that to the 2.9 million conventional cars sold and it shows the country has some way to going adopting four-wheeled EVs.
It’s trying to push for clean transport, though. Late last month, the country announced that it would be earmarking $4.6 billion to incentivize EV battery makers in the country. Presumably, this could be a way in for Tesla, but there was no mention of the EV maker in the report.
As one of the most populous nations in the world, India is also one of the most polluting — the third largest to be exact.
It’s also worth noting that a majority of India’s electricity is generated by burning coal. While studies have shown that EVs are still better for the environment, even when charged from fossil fuel-based electricity, their benefit is reduced.
Tesla getting into India could be good news for us all, that is assuming the company champions renewable energy as much as it brags about its own cars. Oh, and of course, we have to wait for that to actually find a way into the country. Going by how it’s gone so far, I wouldn’t count on it being as “soon” as Musk makes it seem.
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