Tesla Inc, the world's largest electric car producer, is looking to make a significant investment in India, said its chief Elon Musk, who saw India as holding more promise than any other large country around the globe.
Musk, after meeting Prime Minister Narendra Modi, said he plans to visit India in 2024.
"I am confident that Tesla will be in India and we will do so as soon as humanly possible," Musk told reporters after the meeting. "We don't want to jump the gun on an announcement, but I think it's quite likely that it will be a significant investment, a relationship with India." India, the world's third-largest energy consumer, is pitching as an alternate destination for investment for US companies in a bid to capitalise on the growing chill between Beijing and Washington.
Musk, who has been scouting for the location of Tesla's next factory and is reportedly considering France, South Korea and Indonesia as possible destinations, said India has strong potential for sustainable energy including solar power, stationary battery packs and electric vehicles.
Calling himself "a fan" of Modi, he said the prime minister "really cares about India because he is pursuing us to make a significant investment in India." "Great meeting you, Elon Musk. We had multifaceted conversations on issues ranging from energy to spirituality," Modi tweeted after the meeting.
Musk replied back, saying "It was an honor to meet again." "Great conversation with @NarendraModi," he said.
Tesla has been in talks with Indian authorities for months now. It has already registered its business under the name Tesla India Motors and Energy Pvt. Ltd and has also been testing its vehicles in the country.
But it wants the government to reduce import taxes on electric vehicles and components. Government officials have previously stated that the EV maker should first start production in India before tax benefits can be considered.
The American EV giant first wants to gauge the demand here by offering CBU (Completely Built-Up) units before moving with a heavy investment.
Korean auto giant Hyundai, too, has been supportive of Tesla's request, but Indian players like Tata Motors and Ola Electric are against the move as they believe a reduction in import tax would hurt domestic manufacturing.
Prime Minister Modi began his landmark visit to the US meeting prominent US personalities from different walks of life.
"Modi met Elon Musk, tech pioneer, business magnate and CEO of Tesla Inc. & SpaceX; owner, CTO and chairman of Twitter; founder of the Boring Company and X-corp; co-founder of Neuralink and OpenAI, today, in New York, USA.
"Prime Minister appreciated Musk's efforts at making technology accessible and affordable in various sectors. Prime Minister invited Musk to explore opportunities in India for investments in electric mobility and rapidly expanding commercial space sector," an official press statement said.
Later in a video message, Musk said he was "incredibly excited about the future of India".
"India has more promise than any large country in the world. He (PM Modi) really cares about India as he's pushing us to make significant investments in India. I am a fan of Modi. It was a fantastic meeting and I like him quite a lot," he added.
His meeting with Modi came days after Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey made sensational allegations that the Indian government threatened to shut down the social media platform for not complying with content takedown orders during a 2020-2021 farmers' protest. The government has denied the allegation, calling them an "outright lie".
Asked about Dorsey's comments, Musk, who last year bought Twitter for $44 billion, said, "We cannot apply America to Earth. Twitter does not have a choice but to obey the local government. If we don't obey local laws then we will get shut down. We will do our best to provide the freest speech that is possible under the rule."
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