Tesla eyes India innings: Recap of key developments so far

The relationship between India and Tesla has been rocky but the romance has never died down entirely. Many say it is not about if but when the EV make
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Elon Musk
File photo: Prime Minister Narendra Modi shakes hands with Tesla CEO Elon Musk during a meeting in New York City on June 20, 2023. (via REUTERS)
Elon Musk
File photo: Prime Minister Narendra Modi shakes hands with Tesla CEO Elon Musk during a meeting in New York City on June 20, 2023.

Tesla is reportedly eyeing an India site where it plans to build its production facility ahead of its debut in the country. While the company has not officially confirmed either its India entry or that it is on the lookout for a suitable site, reports suggest that the world's largest electric vehicle (EV) maker has the world's third-largest vehicle market in its clear sight.

India's EV space - electric car segment in particular - is still quite small compared to markets like China and the US. But many point out that the potential for growth is enormous and for Tesla, a company that is now facing thawing sales across key markets, the diverse market here could be a shot in the arm. It isn't as if Tesla has only recently began showing interest in India.

Check out key developments so far in Tesla and India looking at joining hands in what could potentially be a cornerstone moment for the EV movement here:

12019: Elon Musk shows early signs of affection

Tesla CEO Elon Musk, in response to a query from a user on X - then called Twitter, says he would love to be in India. His message says Tesla would be in India 'this year. If not, definitely next year!"

22020: Deferred love affair

While Tesla did not make its India entry as per Musk's 2019 message, he took to Twitter once again - again in response to a query, to say, “Yea…next year for sure.” This was in October of the year. In December, Union Minister Nitin Gadkari reveals that Tesla would enter India in 2021 and start by importing cars and then set up a factory. 

32021: A year of nudges

Tesla registers its India arm - Tesla India Motors and Energy - in Bengaluru. Karnataka's then CM BS Yediyurappa says Tesla's first plant will be in the state. Gadkari says India may consider incentives. By April, Tesla zeroes in on Lower Parel area of Mumbai for its first India office. By year end, it also began lobbying the Indian government to reduce import duty on EVs. 

42022: Relationship on the rocks

As ministers from various states continue to claim that Tesla is coming to their respective states first. Musk responds to a user on X saying, “Still working through a lot of challenges with the (Indian) government.” Sources in the Indian government reveal to various news agencies that Musk is trying to put pressure on the government here. It is suggested to Tesla that it can import partially built models and assemble them locally to reduce cost. Tesla puts India entry plans on hold by year end.

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52023: Rekindling the fire

Several senior Tesla officials visit India and meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi with new offers to set up a Tesla Giga Factory here. It was reportedly communicated that the company is willing to establish a manufacturing base eventually and that this could be the center for exporting units to other Asian markets. Later in the year, PM Modi meets Musk during his official state visit to the US. “I am a fan of PM Modi,” Musk tells reporters later.

62024: Hunt for home

According to an exclusive report from Financial Times, citing information from sources, Tesla has started looking to a site in India for its first factory that will see an investment of up to $3 billion.

First Published Date: 04 Apr 2024, 09:38 AM IST
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