Tesla's loss (so far) is gain for Mercedes in Indian EV ecosystem
Mercedes is engaged in a bitter battle against a newer rival the world over. As motorists gradually embrace electric vehicles (EVs) across the globe, Tesla has carved a sizeable lead against traditional automotive brands, including Mercedes. But while almost every major manufacturer is trying to play catch up and has announced some very ambitious EV plans, Mercedes appears doggedly determined in its hunt for the crown. Here in India, the brand competes against the likes of Audi, Jaguar, Volvo and BMW in the luxury EV space and is now looking at playing the biggest role in the segment.
Mercedes-Benz India launched the EQS AMG 53 last week. It will launch the locally-assembled EQS 580 ahead of the festive period before bringing out the EQB electric SUV. Top boss Martin Schwenk outlined how the company expects 25 per cent of its yearly India sales to come from its EV portfolio in the next five years. “Whether it comes early or later, nobody knows but two years ago, I would not have had the guts to make that statement," he said. (Read more here)
It sure takes guts to offer luxury EV models and still expect sales volumes to remain high. But Mercedes is gunning for glory too and not having to compete against Tesla in India - not at the moment anyway - is one less challenge to overcome.
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While there have been a whole lot of speculation that Tesla would land on Indian shores, it isn't happening in the foreseeable future. The Indian government wants Tesla to manufacture its EVs locally. Elon Musk, Tesla CEO and the world's wealthiest person, wants to first test the market with units imported from China's Shanghai. He also expects concessions. At present, no side is willing to cede an inch.
But while Tesla stays away, others are trying to make the most of the available elbow room. The Indian EV space isn't big for cars yet but while Tata Motors dominates the mass-market segment, Mercedes is looking at taking the fight to the Audi camp. Audi currently has the widest EV portfolio in the country. Volvo too has jumped in with the most-affordable luxury EV in the form of XC40 Recharge, priced at ₹56 lakh (ex showroom). Mercedes, however, may be banking on the indication that buyers in the luxury space aren't exactly concerned about buying price as much as they may be about having a statement of intent. An overwhelming number of Indian luxury EV buyers so far are those who already own at least one luxury vehicle. And with the likes of EQS and EQB lined up to join the ranks of the EQC launched in 2020, Mercedes could be looking at playing the EV game on the front foot.