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regular-article-logo Thursday, 30 May 2024

Elon Musk puts off highly anticipated India visit, cites pressing commitments at Tesla

This delay throws a curveball into a highly anticipated visit that had sparked speculation about Tesla and Starlink, Musk’s satellite internet venture, making inroads into the Indian market

Our Special Correspondent New Delhi Published 21.04.24, 10:23 AM
Elon Musk

Elon Musk File picture

Billionaire Elon Musk, the head of Tesla Inc and SpaceX, pushed back his much-anticipated visit to India, originally slated for April 21 and 22. Citing pressing commitments at Tesla, Musk reassured on social media that he intends to reschedule for later this year.

This delay throws a curveball into a highly anticipated visit that had sparked speculation about Tesla and Starlink, Musk’s satellite internet venture, making inroads into the Indian market.

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The trip was seen as an opportunity to clarify the companies’ plans for the world’s largest democracy. Some would like to know if India will become home to a multi-billion dollar Tesla factory, a potential boon for the country’s burgeoning electric vehicle sector.

Discussions surrounding import duty reductions and the roadmap for selling Tesla cars in India were on the agenda.

The Indian government’s recent electric vehicle policy, offering incentives for domestic manufacturing, might have provided a solution. However, with Musk’s postponed visit, these discussions will have to wait.

According to the policy, the companies that would set up manufacturing facilities for EV passenger cars will be allowed to import a limited number of cars at a lower customs/import duty of 15 per cent on vehicles costing $35,000 and above for five years from the date of issuance of the approval letter by the government.

At present, cars imported as completely built units (CBUs) attract customs duty ranging from 70 per cent to 100 per cent, depending on the engine size and cost, insurance and freight (CIF) value.

CBUs, whose CIF value is more than $40,000, attract a 100 per cent import duty (for petrol engines sized more than 3,000cc and diesel engines sized more than 2,500cc).

Those with a CIF value under $40,000 attract 70 per cent duty (for petrol engines sized under 3,000cc and diesel engines sized under 2,500cc).

The EV policy seeks to promote India as a manufacturing destination for EVs and attract investment from reputed global manufacturers. Last year, Tesla approached the Indian government seeking duty cuts to import its vehicles in India.

In 2022, Musk said that Tesla, which was earlier seeking a reduction in import duties to sell its vehicles in India, would not manufacture its products unless it is allowed to first sell and service its cars in the country.

Musk’s satellite internet venture, Starlink, also has its sights set on India. However, its path is clouded by regulatory hurdles, with its licence application awaiting government approval.

Starlink is a division of SpaceX, which provides high-speed internet access globally using a constellation of thousands of satellites in low-earth orbit. This service is particularly beneficial in rural and remote areas where broadband internet or fibre-based internet is not available.

Other companies such as OneWeb, backed by Airtel’s Sunil Mittal, and Jio in partnership with Luxembourg-based SES have already obtained Global Mobile Personal Communication by Satellite (GMPCS) licences. However, spectrum allocation and pricing details are yet to be declared.

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