Tata Motors tests export markets for EVs, to roll out EV-only dealerships in India

By Aditi Shah

NEW DELHI (Reuters) – Tata Motors, India’s biggest electric carmaker, is testing its electric vehicles in some global markets where it could look at a potential launch if the experiment succeeds, its managing director told Reuters.

The tests are in early stages and based on how the cars perform, Tata may need to make some changes to the product before it can finalise and develop a “go to market” strategy, Shailesh Chandra said in an interview.

“It is about which markets I should be in, with what products and with what kind of distribution strategy. We are assessing some markets, running our cars, discussing with business partners,” he said.

Chandra said it was too early to discuss details of the export markets and there would be more clarity next year.

Tata also plans to roll out new car dealerships over coming quarters in some Indian cities that will exclusively sell EVs as sales of its clean cars gain momentum and it lines up faster launches of new electric models, Chandra said.

Sales of EVs globally have been growing as tighter emission regulations push carmakers to increase the share of electric cars in their portfolio. While Tesla still leads the EV race, Chinese rivals like BYD are catching up with new factories and aggressive exports.

Tata Motors, which already sells three EV models, launched its fourth electric car in New Delhi on Thursday – a new version of its Nexon electric SUV with a starting price of 1.5 million rupees ($18,000), which can be driven for 465 kilometres (289 miles) on a single charge.

The EV maker has a more than 80% share of India’s electric car market, which is small but growing, and where it competes with China’s MG Motor and home-grown Mahindra & Mahindra. Tesla is also eyeing an India factory and is in talks with the government to build a $24,000 car.

Electric models made up about 2% of total car sales in India of 3.9 million last fiscal year and the government wants to grow this to 30% by 2030.

The Mumbai-based automaker has said it plans to have 10 electric cars in its portfolio over the next 3-4 years with EVs making up 25% of its total car sales by 2025. Chandra said the company is on track to meet its targets, including plans to sell around 100,000 EVs in the current fiscal year.

Growing sales and the new Nexon EV have become the catalyst for its plan to launch EV-only dealerships, Chandra said.

“It is not going to be a pan-India roll out, it is going to be a progressive roll out. We want to understand fully the implication of an exclusive outlet versus what we were selling with the existing outlets,” Chandra said.

Tata has a country-wide dealership network for its gasoline and diesel cars through which it currently also sells its EVs. Chandra said the roll out of new EV outlets would be in small and big cities, depending on its current network of dealerships.

Tata’s ability to ramp up production of its EVs and launch new electric car models at a faster pace will also support its plan for new dealerships, which can now offer a broader portfolio, making them more viable, Chandra said.

“Earlier, the bigger problem was our lack of assessment of demand … today we are very well prepared to deal with a faster ramp up,” he said.

($1 = 83.0000 Indian rupees)

(Reporting by Aditi Shah; Editing by Sharon Singleton)