Tesla cannot receive ‘company-specific incentives’ to avoid India import taxes

A Tesla Inc. Model S electric vehicle charges at a Supercharger station in Rubigen, Switzerland, on Thursday, Aug. 16, 2018. Tesla chief executive officer Elon Musk has captivated the financial world by blurting out via Twitter his vision of transforming Tesla into a private company. Photographer: Stefan Wermuth/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Just days after Tesla CEO Elon Musk told Twitter followers that the company is likely to attempt importing vehicles into India to test demand, country officials say it cannot offer “company-specific incentives,” regardless of the advantages an entity may offer the government.

Late last week, Musk described the difficult economic conditions that are required in India to import vehicles in the country. Import duties double the price of any car priced at over $40,000. They add 60% of the sticker price to any vehicle priced under that threshold if a foreign automaker wishes to sell a vehicle in India. A hefty price increase for many, this issue has plagued Tesla’s entrance into India for several years.

Teslarati reported last week (via Reuters) that Tesla officials requested India’s government ministries reduce import duties for electric vehicles, stating that the increased number of sustainable powertrains would boost demand and generate revenue for the country. Sources said that Tesla requested that import duties be reduced to 40%, a more reasonable figure that would enable the automaker to test demand in the country before building a production facility in India. The price tag of a production facility would cost Tesla hundreds of millions of dollars, so the company is more willing to test sales figures with imports rather than dive into a possibly unsuccessful market.



Musk said Saturday that “If Tesla is able to succeed with imported vehicles, a factory in India is quite likely.” Getting past the import taxes is the main concern currently, and it seems unlikely that the government is willing to budge, based on a new report.

According to government officials, there is no chance of a single company gaining financial advantages, especially if it is a foreign entity. Officials are unwilling to give Tesla a reduced duty rate to test demand for its vehicles, especially as other politicians have prioritized local manufacturing efforts.

Officials said (via MoneyControl):

“The government has made its stance against company-specific incentives clear. This also applies for one particular company requesting industrywide changes to existing policy. Over the past four years, multiple demands were made by a large US-based firm to open up the market at lower import duties as well. Now, they locally produce in India and are ramping up capacity.”

The report indicates that the official was talking about Apple, a company that attempted to gain special incentives to begin manufacturing its products in India.

The government is more prone to extend financial advantages to companies willing to manufacture products in the country, especially domestic companies. It is unwilling to reduce taxes for foreign entities, even if it would offer the government increased revenue and environmental advantages. In fact, higher import duties are being considered for “finished products.”



The official added:

“The commerce department has consistently suggested higher import duties for finished products rather than components to support Make in India. Our commitment remains with that.”

Tesla would likely build its vehicles in China at Giga Shanghai and ship them to India, like it has done with Europe since January 2021. However, there seems to be little wiggle room for the automaker, and Indian officials don’t seem willing to budge.

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