The Kona sells for about $35,000 while the average Indian earns about $2,000 a year. No wonder barely more than 8,000 EVs were sold in India in the past six years.
Hyundai Motor Co. launched India’s first electric SUV this summer with a quirky TV commercial urging millennials to “Drive Into the Future.” A few months later, the automaker finds itself on a lonesome road.
In a nation of about 150 million drivers, only 130 Kona SUVs were sold to dealers through August. That slow pace is emblematic of the difficulties carmakers face in establishing an electric foothold in the fourth-biggest auto market, even with committed government support.
The Kona sells for about $35,000 while the average Indian earns about $2,000 a year — and the best-selling gas guzzler costs $4,000. Yet Kona’s sticker price only kicks off the conversation about why EVs aren’t gaining traction in India — there’s also a lack of charging infrastructure, a reluctance by banks to finance purchases and an unwillingness among government departments to use EVs as directed.
Barely more than 8,000 EVs were sold locally during the past six years, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. China sells more than that in two days, according to BloombergNEF projections.
“The affordability of electric cars in India is just not there,” said R.C. Bhargava, chairman of Maruti Suzuki India Ltd., maker of the sales leader Alto. “I don’t think the government or the car companies expect that in the next two to three years there will be any real buying of electric vehicles.”
The segment still isn’t making meaningful strides more than four years after the government started promoting cleaner vehicles for one of the world’s most-polluted countries. In February, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s administration committed to spending $1.4 billion on subsidies, infrastructure and publicity.