Hyundai set to lead global firms in race to sell EVs in India

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MUMBAI/NEW DELHI (Feb 7): Hyundai Motor Co is poised to be the first global automaker to introduce an electric vehicle in India, ahead of market leader Suzuki Motor Corp, as the government pursues Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ambition for all new cars to be battery powered by 2030.

The South Korean company plans to bring next year, completely-knocked down kits from its factories at home, Y.K. Koo, chief executive officer of Hyundai’s India unit, said at the Auto Expo in New Delhi on Wednesday. Maruti Suzuki India Ltd will introduce its first electric car in 2020, CEO Kenichi Ayukawa said at the show.

In India, where about 3 million fossil fuel-powered passenger vehicles sell annually, some foreign automakers are looking to get into the new segment as the government considers a plan to have only electric car sales by 2030. Local manufacturers Tata Motors Ltd and Mahindra & Mahindra Ltd won an order to supply 10,000 battery-powered cars to government-backed Energy Efficiency Services Ltd.

“All automakers have realised the government’s seriousness about EV goals and are looking to test the waters by announcing a few models,” said Allen Tom Abraham, a New Delhi-based analyst at Bloomberg New Energy Finance. “The larger manufacturers such as Maruti and Hyundai would not want to lose market shares to smaller peers and would be looking to use the first set of incentives to build capabilities that would help them scale-up, once the market matures.”

Policy Clarity

Some automakers are preferring to wait for government policy. Renault SA, the French automaker, will take a decision on when and how to bring its models after it gets policy clarity, Sumit Sawhney, CEO of the company’s India unit, said in an interview. If there’s demand, the automaker will evaluate the option of producing electric vehicles locally, he said.

Kia Motors Corp, the South Korean company that will start operations in India next year, will look to introduce electric vehicles once customers and infrastructure are ready, Manohar Bhat, head of sales and marketing at the local unit, said in an interview on Tuesday.

Hyundai will consider local manufacturing of its electric vehicles depending on the market and government support, Koo said in an interview. The automaker is currently conducting a market survey, he said without providing details.

The pursuit for all electric new car sales in less than a decade-and-a-half is part of Modi’s plan to champion the cause of combating climate change. Bloomberg New Energy Finance predicts the target will be “incredibly difficult” in the absence of a clearly defined policy and without subsidies. Companies in China, where sales of new-energy vehicles surged 53% to 777,000 units last year, have benefited from generous funding offered by various regional governments.

The automakers looking to introduce battery-powered cars in India will have to contend with few hundred charging points in the country. That compares with about 215,000 installed in China at the end of 2016. This could change. India’s power ministry is considering ending the lock on electricity sales by distributors as one way to speed up growth in vehicle charging stations.