Designer Jony Ive and OpenAI’s Sam Altman Discuss AI Hardware ProjectRead more

In New York in June, Tesla CEO Elon Musk meets with India Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Photo: Indian PIB/Anadolu/Getty

The Electric: EV Makers Eye India as Their Next Big Market

Photo: In New York in June, Tesla CEO Elon Musk meets with India Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Photo: Indian PIB/Anadolu/Getty

The world’s major automakers have announced plans to spend tens of billions of dollars on electric vehicle assembly plants, battery gigafactories and mining operations around the world. But they have largely shunned India. Though India is now tied as the world’s third-largest auto market, major carmakers have announced no EV or battery gigafactories in the South Asian country; General Motors and Ford have pushed ahead with plans to pull out of the country.

In recent months, however, some leading industry players have warmed to India. Tesla and China’s Byd, the leading makers of EVs, have sought India’s permission to manufacture EVs and batteries in the country. U.S. EV startup Fisker Motors says it will produce at least two EV models in India, as have Nissan and Renault. The change of industry tone coincides with two developments: India this year surpassed China as the world’s most populous nation, with 1.4 billion people, according to the United Nations, and last year, Indian consumers snapped up 4.7 million vehicles, roughly equal to the number sold in Japan, and behind just China and the U.S.

The Indian government this week blocked Byd’s proposal, Bloomberg reported, making it an apparent victim of traditionally bad geopolitical blood between India and China and suggesting tough going for other Chinese EV makers. But Byd’s proposal, and Tesla’s proposed gigafactories, say much about India’s EV cred: India has “more promise than any large country in the world,” Tesla CEO Elon Musk said last month after meeting with India Prime Minister Narendra Modi in New York. Byd did not respond to an email.

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