OverdriveDec 28, 2020 14:45:35 IST
Tesla, EV pioneer and the world’s most valuable automaker, is expected to make its debut in India by next month, i.e. January 2021, going by a report carried on ET Auto. The Elon Musk-led brand is expected to open bookings then, with deliveries supposedly following through in June-July 2021. Previous reports have suggested that Tesla may even set up a manufacturing or R and D base in India, but this debut will precede those plans. We expect Tesla to continue to follow its unique direct sales model in India, just like it does in the USA. The company controls its own sales channels, selling its cars via showrooms and centres it owns itself. These centres are even manned by Tesla’s own employees, the idea being the traditional pressures of a dealer-buyer relationship are dealt away with.
The EV maker has even changed how you might service a car, most glitches and updates are fixed over-the-air while 80 per cent of its customer’s service requests are handled by a team of model service technicians, again employed full-time by the company. For issues that can’t be solved at home, the company has a relatively slim network of self-owned service centres where owners can bring their car in for repairs. Most of the scheduling and payments for these happen online with limited paperwork involved. It is still not known how Tesla will replicate this model in India, with the very limited numbers it is expected to do initially and the wide distances its target markets are most likely to be separated by.
It’s most likely that Tesla will set up a sales company for India in the first stage, quite similar to how niche manufacturers operate in our country. We expect key markets within India could initially be Bangalore, Delhi and Mumbai followed by other cities like Hyderabad, Chennai, Pune and others going by the trend where EVs are predominantly sold. The India operations may well be controlled out of its regional offices in Amsterdam, Sydney or Taiwan. However, there is still no clarity on whether we will see the brand’s much-touted Supercharger network of fast chargers in India. This facility has been imperative to the brand’s success in the US and Europe, making charging points for its customers much more accessible and anxiety-free. Replicating this will be an expensive task in India, with no guarantee of sizeable returns. Tesla may well follow the current model for our country, where manufacturer-installed home/office box chargers are the norm.
It is known that the first Tesla offering for India will be the entry-level Tesla Model 3. The Model 3 Long Range has a 560 km claimed range according to the WLTP cycle. It gets from 0 to 100 kmph in 4.8s. This time drops to 3.5s in the Performance version, which also gets 20-inch wheels, in place of the standard 18-inch or optional 19-inchers in the Long Range. The Performance version’s range is 530km, both weigh 1,847kg. The Model 3 is about the same size as a Mercedes C-Class or a BMW 3-Series and competes with these cars globally. But even though Tesla will be eligible for the 2,500-unit non-homologation clause, the Model 3 will still be a CBU, driving prices up to around Rs 55-60 lakh, ex-showroom. Even with the various state and centre-level incentives, the Model 3 will be significantly more expensive than its traditionally powered rivals.
This raises the question of what this debut really means for the EV market in India. While a small segment of HNI individuals and enthusiasts will be looking forward to this debut, Tesla’s India debut may not be as impactful as it has been elsewhere. The EV market in India is nascent at best, with numbers hovering below the 1000-unit mark monthly, largely accounted for by the Tata Nexon EV, MG ZS EV and the Hyundai Kona, all mainstream offerings. The only luxury EV currently sold in the country is the Mercedes-Benz EQC, with the Jaguar I-Pace following in January 2021.
All this is still speculation. Elon Musk has previously stated that a market that does not support the EV infrastructure makes little sense to invest in and offer the Tesla range of cars. So all this talk about Tesla coming in could still be a bubble that Elon Musk could pop anytime he sees fit. While Musk has clearly indicated on his Twitter timeline about Teslas India plans beginning early 2021, he is also known to change plans at the drop of a hat if the conditions aren’t right. So we would approach this news with a bit of caution, because while announcements could be made in January, whether or not deliveries begin midway through 2021 is anybody’s guess.