An Open Letter To Elon Musk About Tesla’s Future In India


India unfortunately has some of the worlds most polluted cities. Who likes pollution? Well, no one, not even us, except some EV haters.

Let’s remember Tesla’s mission:

To accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable energy.

Well, money making is not Elon’s end goal. Yes, Tesla needs to make money to accelerate. What I meant to say is that it can make less money instead of leaving a whole market where acceleration to EVs is must. India is one such market. But, Tesla can make a good amount of money once the masses start to adopt electric vehicles.

Delhi wants 25% EV by 2023!! That’s a bit difficult, but not impossible.

Let’s look at cars in general in India. How much do they cost? Well, most of India’s top 10 selling cars are under/near INR 10,00,000 or $14,285 (at rate of 1$ = INR 70). Tesla’s cheapest Model 3 is at $35,000 (currently not in production). That makes it INR 24,50,000 which is 2.5 times what an average Indian buyer usually pays. Let’s add a 60% import duty. That brings us to INR 39,20,000 or $56,000! It’s costly for even a US buyer. And even more for us.

So, what is the conclusion from here! It’s that EVs need to be more affordable to be a mass market success in India. Of course, some rich kids would surely buy higher version S & X, but they soon will sell it. And in no way does it serve Tesla’s mission. I want Tesla to make $20-25k model as said by Elon on MKBHD’s interview asap.

So, that’s one main challenge — pricing. Here I came to another one. Roads! Well, roads are improving, highways are being built. But still … not all roads are in good condition. The worse part is we have dangerously big speed bumps! A car with 170mm ground clearance can get through most places, but some still bottom out. This is not a big problem in an ICE, but in a Tesla it can be due to the skateboard battery pack. I don’t think anyone would even risk a scratch to the bottom. Tesla would not like its batteries getting damaged. So, Elon please, for whatever future model you consider building for Asian and African markets, try to at least have its ground clearance around 180-200mm. Tesla forum’s states the Model 3’s ground clearance as 5.5 inches, so nearly 140mm. Drivable, but just drivable.

Another piece of advice for any future Indian based model. Try to make the standard battery as big as possible. And, remove features like AP hardware and glass roof. Have them on higher versions and optional on standard. A very cheap model is a must. There are people currently buying $6-7k cars. Let’s say they’d spend $16-17k for an EV, considering it can run for years instead of just 7-8 year normal car life.

Elon, as you know, importing a completely built EV to India will increase its price significantly. And then registration tax will further increase it by 10-12% or more depending on the state. PLEASE TRY TO HAVE A GIGAFACTORY HERE ASAP! MILITARY QUICK ACTION Elon, like in China. India is running two elections soon, so contact the government as they will try to use it as their achievement and you can get your deal for a factory.

And Tesla, try to have a sedan for here. A bit narrower than the Model 3, with a length nearly 4 meters, as the space in general allows here. The SUV trend is also increasing in India. An Audi Q3-sized SUV will be appreciated in future. A small SUV would also work as Tesla starts expanding its products in India.

India Times writes–

“We have proposed a definition for completely knocked down (CKDs) and semi-knocked down (SKDs) kits for EVs along with a tax structure conducive to increase their presence on Indian roads. However, we will not touch the parts attracting zero percent duty,” a senior government official told PTI.

Currently, zero customs duty is applied on the crucial parts of EVs, including battery, charger, converter, controller, energy monitor, electric compressor and motor. While 28 percent basic customs duty is applied to parts including metals and plastics.

Tesla can quickly start partially production in India with imports of parts and assembling them here. I would recommend Tesla to start building Superchargers here, too. First in metro cities. Destination chargers are also needed. Tesla could make this happen by partnering with some other manufacturers like Suzuki and Tata for destination chargers. These companies are bringing small EVs to market by 2020. So, destination chargers can suit them too. After that, start expansion to highways and other cities.

With Tesla marching ahead in battery cost and other part production, I am sure that it will soon come with a more cheaper EV. The $25k Tesla!

And, I am pretty sure Deepak can also guide EM on this as said by him. I am hoping for Tesla to have partial presence in India this year, as Elon mentioned. I would like to pay weekly visits to a store if one opens in Delhi.

A personal request Elon. Please put a switch for closing mirrors on the driver’s side door. These same things apply to any other company trying to get mass market EVs to India. It’s a diversified country. People have different needs. This article is about mass adoption. So, before anyone starts saying any hate comments about India or Tesla, there will be many people buying S,3,X,Y also. ‘Many’.

Before having Tesla Motors here, I would recommend Tesla Energy comes first. The solar industry in India is booming. With India aiming to have 80GWh capacity by 2020, I think it would be great if Tesla brings its energy unit here first. A Gigafactory that can do both solar and cars.

I am waiting Elon!

**About me- I am student at Delhi University. Passionate about Tesla and Space. Would be saving either for buying a Tesla or a ticket to MARS. Inspired by Elon. Not a $tsla shareholder.

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79 Comments on "An Open Letter To Elon Musk About Tesla’s Future In India"

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Everyone wants wants, wants. How about to convince the big Tata Group and the big Indian corporations and the Indian government to invest in low price segment EVs. Indian Space program, but the cities are in mess… something does not make sense.

Tata Group is not in great shape financially; they don’t have the resources to build a low-price EV. They are on the cutting edge of EVs through their Jaguar brand, where the i-Pace is proving successful so far, but it’ll take a long time for that tech to filter down to an affordable Tata vehicle.

Still it doesn’t make sense premium maker like Tesla to risk with production capacity in India, delivering Indian spec cars as requested. Tata, Mahinra, etc shall do that.

Check out the Tata Nano.

Given the choice of CHina vs India, I would India quality ANY DAY.

Not saying you’re right or wrong. Can you give a few example that India makes better products than China?

Tata isn’t in great shape financially, that’s true.

But Tesla is????

Don’t make me laugh!

I think you’ve been reading far too many Tesla bashing comments.

Tesla could raise substantial money with almost ridiculous ease at any time by simply issuing additional stock. They’ve already done that more than once.

But they don’t build the thing, it’s contracted out.

Tata will make a cheap EV for sure.
They can from 2019 buy some important EV parts from suppliers, and can choose a cheap, weaker unit that can drive an OK distance with a cheaper smaller battery.

They could make an EV version of the Tata Nano for example.

If a solar cell roof can be made cheap enough, they should add it though.

Self drive stuff will of course not be included, since cars are still sold without ABS, ESP, AC and airbags just to mention some things, to cut cost.

A solar roof on the nano will barely power the radio.

They don’t need Teslas anymore than they need Rimacs. They already have a superior solution for their environs/economy.

Yup. The typical urban Indian looking for an EV will be looking at very low-cost, low-speed, lightly built 2- and 3-wheeled vehicles, just like those “rickshaw” BEVs. A lot of electric scooters, too.

That’s not a market which Tesla has any interest in entering. Tesla entered the highway-capable EV passenger car market at the top end, and is gradually working its way down, but only with difficulty. The market for low-speed, relatively unsafe vehicles which cost only a few thousand apiece, isn’t part of Tesla’s business plan at all, and likely never will be.

Wrong. Those are basically taxis and are not really designed for driving city2city.
The M3 is perfect for India’s HIGH-END car. Better yet, would be the coming cheaper sedan that is less than 25K.

Look. India wants to improve their economy like CHina did. Sadly, they are following the same path (lots of tariffs, money manipulation, new coal plants, etc). They know that they do not want the worst part of what CHinese leaders foisted on their citizens. However, Indial is already having large amounts of pollution. Their current goal is to improve energy, hence nuclear power, combined with lots of solar/wind. BUT, they have to sell it, which requires lots of jobs for them. In addition, by getting lots of EVs, that increases the ability to sell electricity, which will lower the costs.

Tesla is able to be exported, which is why they want it.
Elon has promised to not export from China, though the Xi and the gov is doing a full court press for otherwise.
Personally, I would rather he develop in India and Australia. India is cheaper labor (though less of a big deal since each version gets more and more automated), and Both India and Australia have lots of resources such as steel and aluminum mills.

With concern to this article, I being a resident of urban India supports the ideas, research and the suggestions given by the writer of the fore-sighted article and appreciate his strategy. Hope Tesla too adopt the same strategy towards the Super Economy India for its betterment which may further furnish the needs of Tesla too in future.

Youtube : “Daily life in India – driving in traffic in Delhi ( India )”

Then tell me what makes more sense, …

A. an open letter to Elon Musk
B. an open letter to Mark Frohnmayer?

Indeed. The gov and Tata Motors couldn’t care less, by the way they own a premium maker like Jaguar Land Rover, which is not in good shape, but still premium, not low price EVs as they request.

Tata Nano. ICEV of 7 years ago. Original cost and <$4,000. It's possible for them to build a low cost EV.

“Arcimoto’s Opportunity: Disrupting Personal Mobility”

A caveat to my Arcimoto India enthusiasm : It gets pretty hot there, …. so battery life could be a problem.

Not really.
Heat degradation depends on whose batteries and how well HVAC.
As it is, assuming that you are an American, Southern India is lot like being in southern Florida from Jupiter down to Miami. So, tesla do just fine there.

> what makes more sense, an open letter to
> Elon Musk or to Mark Frohnmayer?

So why not both? Especially given that it’s open, it can just as easily be read by both of them. Or indeed, any other EV-focused entrepreneur. The fact that it’s been addressed to Musk should not preclude anyone else with the required resources from responding to it.

The writer is certainly not helping his case by addressing the “open letter” to Tesla. It is clear he is woefully clueless about the EV market. That market segment is one in which Tesla has no interest in competing.

pathetic, based on this letter it would be the last place in the world I would want Tesla involved. If Tata won’t create for their own market why would Tesla do that? Tesla is not a charity case.

Yeah, but the guy wrote the tech requirements and it should be cheap and asap, he is waiting for Tesla to react. Very smart, give me a break.

I think we need a template:
“Dear Tesla,
Please come to invest in my country and assume the risk, because my govt and corporations failed to do this and that.
P.S. please, do it asap.

Yeah, but if nations like France or Norway or Sweden were smart, they would throw money at him to build ASAP.
As it is, it appears that Tesla is quietly expanding their assembly plant to include M3/MY.

Many Indians are too poor to buy Tesla. I expect that Tata EV car or VW e-Up! (a bit expensive) will be released before Tesla. Unless, Tesla discards building Model Y and ignores its Chinese expansion, so they can focus on India. This won’t happen. Indians have to wait longer longer… Probably 2030.

I think BYD, CATL, SAIG, BAIC, etc will take care of India once they are done with the Chinese mass market EVs. Things can run in parallel, Chinese are capable to push production at a neckbreaking pace. No Indian city orders electric buses like Chinese cities do, let alone to achieve 100% bus fleet replacements, like Chinese cities do. It is a maturity issue for India.

Yes. I expect India will be the first foreign market that Chinese EV makers will enter. Prices and safety standards in India are about as low as they are in China, so that’s a natural outlet for Chinese made low-speed EVs.

While most can’t afford one, there are enough Indians who could afford a Tesla that it would probably be worth Tesla’s while to start selling to the country. Just as it would be in South Africa. Musk has already suggested that he hopes to start selling in SA in 2020. I don’t think he’s publicly said anything about India yet, but a similar time frame to SA would make sense. What he probably won’t achieve in either country is large scale sales. Both countries have much lower average selling price for cars than the US; Model 3’s $35k price was deliberately targeted as the average US car selling price, which means it is sufficiently cheap to have pretty broad appeal, but it would need to be another $10k cheaper to have a similar impact in SA or India. They will sell a decent number of cars in both countries, but if they really want to succeed in changing the world, they’ll need to come up with something truly low cost. I’m not sure if they could drop some features from Model 3 to produce a true budget version, but they should consider it. They would likely want to only sell… Read more »

You can’t de-content a Model 3 enough to get it down to the price the author of this “open letter” wants. A Model 3 is a highway-capable, long-range performance car built to high safety standards. What he wants is a very cheap, lightly built, low-speed 3-wheeler.

I can’t imagine why he addressed his “open letter” to Tesla, unless it was merely to get undeserved attention. In that, I guess he succeeded.

I doubt it. I think that Tesla will be in India before too long.
Far better Tesla, than China forcing themselves on India again.

Almost every point (except ground clearance) in this post is wrong.

Current versions of M3 will sell like hotcakes in India.

No one will buy a cheap Tesla in $25000 or lower range.

Even in North America, a $25,000 Tesla, if it still had 200+ Miles Range, even if it only seated 4, could sell in the Millions!

Yup, just my opinion, based on Coworker feedback, and that is from $70,000+ per year co-workers!

why do you think that nobody would buy a 25K Tesla?
I would. I think that is ideal for my son, assuming that it is built of similar design/quality as M3/MY.

It’s a nice idea, but a more compact Tesla is not likely to happen for quite a few years when you look at their current product pipeline. A customized one for India probably won’t ever happen. A gigafactory in India is very unlikely any time soon considering how many other markets are a higher priority. Lack of local production might be the biggest obstacle since that would allow Tesla to avoid tariffs/taxes.

Isn’t electric infrastructure another problem in India? China is massively paving the way for an electric future, but I don’t get a sense that India is making the same investments.

You should be trying to get Tesla Energy in India first. Solar panels and battery storage could have an even bigger shorter term impact. India has a lot of work to do to get EVs off the ground.

> You should be trying to get Tesla Energy in India first.

The open letter you’re replying to does indeed suggest exactly that.

Well, there is unsteady treatment of foreign company treatment by government of India to consider as well. This includes private payments to local government officials in most cases.

One thing that would really sell well in India is PowerWall. India’s grid is terrible, and even a light rain can knock out power. Perhaps they just turn it off so people don’t die on shoddy connections. I got shocked by a light switch. Pretty much every house needs a backup battery, like island nation’s, and a water filtration system.

If Tesla debuted water filtration AND an economical PowerWall, they would begin to amass huge sales in India. They should price the PowerWall cheap enough that people could disassemble it for cells, which would lead to huge adoption for EV rickshaws and bikes, which Tesla won’t touch directly.

Meanwhile, Tesla could use this as a springboard to begin to offer EVs.

True, but why Tesla? Somebody would fill this need, might not be Tesla. Could be a partner of Tesla.

Tesla has the best and cheapest battery production, creating the best economics in storage. As far as the filtration, yes it could be a partnership, but.. not their style 🙂

If batteries are in a pack with proper bms for those cells.

Forget rickshaws. Tesla energy could do well with disaster resistant micro-grids like the ones they have been building out in Costa Rica. Like Costa Rica, Tesla can probably find innovative ways for communities to afford a better energy infrastructure. Well off individuals might buy a PowerWall & solar roof combination, but many more folks could be served with a communal PowerPack. The communal PowerPack could also serve as the backbone for a local EV charging infrastructure — and Tesla could partner with Mahindra and Tata and E-bike makers to establish a seamless charging standard. If there was an Indian GigaFactory to churn out energy products, it would avoid tariffs and reduce shipping costs, not to mention building up the local economy, creating yet more potential customers. Tesla would make a residual off of running/supporting the charging infrastructure. When folks have a better grid, a solid charging infrastructure, and more money in their pockets from more efficient ways to meet their energy needs two things will happen !} Roads and other infrastructure will improve, and 2} More people will be able to afford Tesla BEVs. Tesla Energy today, and Tesla motors only in the long term. As an added benefit —… Read more »

Partnerships would be a new thing, but there’s certainly potential.

I wanted to highlight one point- with a stabilized grid, or functional micro-grids, the economy would almost certainly improve. For one, Tesla offers the cheapest backup/storage systems, saving money outright. Secondly, the fact that business could function normally during rain storms would add hours to the day in a sense.

How about that uniti. I think it would work awesomely for India.

What India needs is an electric trike. One that could go 150 miles on a charge, and a reliable electric grid.
It’s certainly the poster child for what are almost insurmountable problems regarding a switch to evs.
Tesla is just not in the business of making an inexpensive ev, and won’t be for some time.

India has 1 billion population. half of them so poor, they are not even sure of their next meal. 50% of the rest barely make ends meet. 50% of the rest have some money beyond basic necessities, but not much. That leaves 125 million people with some decent amount of money to splurge, that population is as big as Japan. One third the size of USA or Europe. No, there are enough people in India who could afford fairly expensive cars.

But the country has a very good network of trains and buses. Compact country with just 90 minute flight anywhere to anywhere. So they really dont need 300 mile range electric cars. No one travels very long distances by personal cars. A good 100 mile range, city runabout, will sell well. Somebody will make it. Tata, Mahindra, Lucas-TVS, Hero Cycles, Kinetic … Battery operated scooters and mopeds are going to sweep that country within 5 years.

With a population of a billion people and 50% so poor there not sure where the next meal will come from. Isn’t it time to provide free birth control and letting women know there’s a way to prevent unwanted births. How humane is it bringing children into the world with the likelihood that all they can look forward to is searching for something to eat.

Rough car and light vehicles sales in 2017 in millions
China 28
USA 17
EU 16
Japan 5
India 3
All countries above with exception of China have asp more than double than India has.
IMHO it is hard to imagine Tesla building anything else then tent like general assembly in next 3-5 years in India

Yeah. The call in this “open letter” for Tesla to build a Gigafactory in India is one of the biggest indications of how clueless the writer is. Maybe another “Gigafactory” to make solar panels and solar roof tiles, like Gigafactory 2. But Tesla is not going to enter the market for extremely cheap, low-speed, lightly built “cars” just to cater to the average Indian.

millions is not the same as count.

If you really want a car, and not an electric scooter (much better suited for India’s cities IMHO), I’ll throw in the Sion (see in the ring.
Why? Price (base price €16’000 plus battery), utility (trailer hook, five real seats, larger trunk, included electrical outlet and “crosscharging” another EV, included solar panels to charge for free in Indias sunny climate, …), and the company is located in Germany, which is a little closer to India (just about 2000km).
The only drawback is the range right now, 250km with the base battery isn’t enough for everybody. But currently it’s the only EV that can charge just by standing outside in the sun …

EVs don’t need to be expensive. And also don’t forget about used cars. Who buys a new car nowadays anyway? (Except for Tesla customers 🙂 )

Sion will make way better margins selling in China.

What India needs is Arcimotos!
Electric 3 wheelers with 80-120 mile range starting models at $11,000 usd

The old Chevy Sprint, Suzuki Forsa/Cultus (Geo Metro), Pontiac Firefly: could make a good 100 Km Range EV!

See “MyElectricfly” website – my EV Conversion, built by High School Students, in 1994 in my case! A 1989 Model!

Power consumption of about 140 Wh per Km @ 100 Kph (13,700 Watts used @ 100 Kph), on Lead Acid Batteries! LiFePO4, should be better! Li-Ion 18650 Cells, 3.4 Ah cells from Panasonic, should be even more efficient!

The Suzuki Cultus was still made in Pakistan, last I heard, so making it an EV should be doable, locally!

India has many clever engineers. Do it yourself.

“Let’s add a 60% import duty.”


Tesla can’t help countries who actively work to keep Tesla out of their countries with outrageous import duty. An import duty this high is effectively a huge “KEEP OUT” sign.

Agreed, a 60% import duty means “We don’t want your help”

India has 2 big car makers : Tata and Mahindra. Where Tata won a government contract to supply small EV sedans to the government and Mahindra had taken over EV maker Reva (now Mahindra electric) and is offering affordable EV since many years in India from small city hopper (E2O), small sedan (Verito) and minivan/cargo van (Supro) – so there is no need for Tesla to invest billions in a new factory and develop a small suitable low cost car – local Indian players can do this already and China has dozen of suitable EV’s as well.

If a country of over a billion people wants to electrify that fast the govt needs to do something about the import tariffs. Gf3 in China could be a prime manufacturing plant for M3 and MY low cost small battery versions for the India market.

Save us, please.

Check out the ElectoMecchanica “SOLO”, as a cheap EV, for ONE, Or, the Renault Twizzy, that Seats Two! Or, ask Toyota to bring the little Scion EV to India!

Rapid EV deployment requires 1.Stable electricity > 2. Charging infrastructure >3. Political willingness and effectiveness >4. Finance >5. Domestic EV industry

Don’t see any of these conditions exist in Indian subcontinent.
1. Nepal is experimenting with Chinese EV, building dams and solar farm, that’s all
2. Classic Chicken and Egg question.
3. Top 50 countries in the Human Development Index are still finding a way to do this with limited success. IPB are below 100 and famous for political ineffectiveness. Sri Lanka pollution is low.
4. EV replacement cost is still out of reach for IPB. IPB will see massive import of cheap used FFV as developed countries getting EV for the next decade.
5. IPB may benefit from labour intensive EV processes, however tiny.

What is “IPB”? Perhaps “India Pakistan Bangladesh” ??

“This definition appears very rarely”

Rarely used TLAs should never be used without first defining them.

“A very cheap model is a must. There are people currently buying $6-7k cars.”

I think he mis-addressed this letter. Surely he didn’t mean to send it to Tesla; perhaps Mahindra, or some Chinese auto maker.

However, such a car would be a low-speed microcar with an extremely poor safety rating, shoddily made, which wouldn’t last more than a very few years before starting to need major repairs.

The idea that Tesla would ever want to make such a car… ::facepalm::

However, I do appreciate some of the info in this “letter”. If there really are high speed bumps everywhere in India, that helps explain why Tesla hasn’t made any attempt at all to enter that market. Surely there are some Indians rich enough to afford a Tesla car.

Why not encourge local entrepreneurship and start-ups ? India’s import tariffs (way steeper than China’s) make it unlikely for Tesla to export there in any meaningful quantities soon.

Before building a factory in India how about eliminating the tariff for Tesla. After several years then build the factory. Which should include free land.
Also provide your citizens with birth control.
I like people from India but don’t you think you have a population problem.

Ditto thoughts from me too.
I would be one of the many who would buy it for Pollution free india and to share my respect for Elon.

I think more appropriate would be BYD Fe-Phosphate battery. Govt should attract them. They are heavier and with smaller range but charge cycles are more. They also dont contain pricier Cobalt. I guess your open letter should be directed to somebody else. I am Indian by the way

I really hate to be this way, but what you are asking for is not just desired for India, but also the United States. You seem to assume that everyone in the US can afford a $50k vehicle, that’s completely false. Most of the folks in the US barely afford used vehicles.

And it you want the US to decrease costs for India, then why would you believe that we should reduce price for just India? Why not everywhere? You mention that Tesla could make a lot of money in India, but then turn around and require things to be so cheap that a manufacturer would lose money? How can that be profitable?

You mention 60% import tax. Who’s fault is that? India probably should look at fixing this first.

And for an electric vehicle, you do need to have an abundance of electrical power. I hear of so many stories that says that India has marginal power capabilities. Charging an EV isn’t something that a single Solar Panel can do. You need enough solar power to probably run a community of a few hundred homes (that don’t have air conditioning, refrigerators, multiple TVs)

Ed, your observation is 100% accurate. India has marginal power capabilities and that too supported by a dirty grid. India’s pollution problem will thus not be solved simply by ushering EVs on roads. India needs solar, grid scale batteries and EVs…to be able to solve this problem. If there is one company that can do all 3 on large scale, it is Tesla.

Elon likes to take on unsurmountable challenges…this is not about money or selling cars, this is about taking on one of the most difficult challenges of pollution in the world today.

As such, India’s Adani Group built the world’s largest solar farm in the world recently in south India and TATA and Mahindra have enough expertise building electric cars suited for Indian conditions…so, I agree, India does not need Tesla (except for grid scale battery storage if it is needed).

What India is lacking is the willpower to make this all happen…

Don’t get me wrong, I’m Indian and I so badly want Tesla here in India. But there’s no denying this is a poorly written random note at best, not worthy of getting quoted.

What government of India should do right now is remove all import taxes on EVs for a certain number of EVs imported by each make or a certain cumulative total. This will give incentive go the likes of Tesla and Nissan to bring their game here and that’ll kick butts of the Tatas and Mahindras while creating a lot of awareness.
Even if none of this happens Tesla could start a partial operation in Mumbai and couple of other major cities where there will be enough buyers even with all the markups for a few years because of the exclusivity.

A look at the situation in India by a business channel show:

India gained it’s Independence in 1950. Nixon opened up trade with China in 1972.
So why are conditions so much worse in India than China. I view both countries with man highly intelligent technical skills.

So more than 1/2 the cost problem is not Tesla, but your own governments insistance on requiring only locally made cars.

Similar problems in Solar and Wind… please correct me if I’m mistaken.

Maybe you do like pollution?

60% tariff? I think the writer needs to direct his attention within his country first. India is a 3rd world -hit-hole, where people still do exactly that in the streets. Elon is not going to save India.

what makes sense is to reduce that import dudty. holy fecal matters batman!!!