Tesla CEO Elon Musk has found an unexpected ally in Mercedes Benz’s India boss. Roland Folger wants the government to offer incentives on electric-car imports until local output becomes viable – if New Delhi is keen on ending fossil-fuel transport by 2030.
Folger, the Mercedes Benz Managing Director for India, said globally the German automaker is heavily investing in technology for electric mobility and if adequate support is extended, these vehicles may make their way to India by 2020.
“We would love to (bring in electric vehicles)… it mirrors our overall strategy…(but) it’s a catch 22 situation all over the industry. You need to reach a certain minimum amount of vehicles that you can sell consistently and sustainably to make it worthwhile investing in a factory. To put us in a position to do that, we need a ramp-up period when incentives are also extended to vehicles not manufactured in the country,” Folger said.
Earlier in June, Elon Musk had said on micro-blogging site Twitter that he is in talks with the government of India regarding temporary relief on import restrictions until a local factory is built in the country.
Musk had at the time responded positively to a tweet from Anand Mahindra, who prodded him to bring his electric cars to this country, but had indicated that Tesla needs support to commence sales in the country.
Folger explained vehicle manufacturers cannot go from selling 0-1,000 vehicles overnight because they would need to build the customer database. Customers would want to see the vehicle, test drive them, gauge reliability, and see what happens with the battery.
The Indian government is in the process of firming up the contours of an ambitious programme that aims to put in place an all-electric fleet by 2030. The fine-print of the programme is expected to be disclosed by the end of the year.