Tesla is looking to open its first sales outlet in India, possibly in Bengaluru, even as it continues talks with the Karnataka government on setting up a research and development (R&D) centre in the state, two people aware of the development said.
The billionaire Elon Musk-led electric vehicle maker (EV) maker has registered a new entity, Tesla India Motors and Energy Pvt. Ltd, with an office in Bengaluru, as part of the initial steps towards starting operations in India.
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“They will introduce their products here and set up outlets. There are ongoing talks for a R&D centre (in Karnataka) but a manufacturing facility is not part of the immediate course of action,” one of the two people mentioned above said, requesting anonymity.
Cupertino, US-based Tesla is also likely to open retail outlets in other large cities in India depending on demand potential for its vehicles. In a confirmation of its plans to enter India, Tesla founder Musk, who recently became the richest individual on the planet overtaking Amazon.com Inc.’s Jeff Bezos, tweeted a four-word response ‘Next year for sure’ to an unofficial Tesla fan club Twitter handle on 2 October.
The company has, however, kept its entire plans for India under wraps for a while now and even a Twitter post by Karnataka chief minister B.S. Yediyurappa, that Tesla will soon start operations in India with an R&D unit in Bengaluru, was deleted hours after it was shared on Wednesday.
Karnataka government officials said that they have been asked not to divulge any details of the deal with Tesla as the company would like to make the announcement itself. Mail to Tesla’s teams in North America and Asia went unanswered.
Tesla is also in talks with other state governments to set up retail outlets, the second person cited above said. The company has completed three rounds of talks scouting for charging sites in Mumbai, The Free Press Journal reported on Wednesday, quoting an unnamed state government official.
Karnataka remains cautious after the damage to its investment-friendly image following an incident of worker violence in December at Tawainese giant Wistron’s factory, which produces iPhone’s for Apple Inc. Tesla’s entry in Karnataka would help the state consolidate its image as India’s EV hub.