Jaguar Land Rover unveiled its all-electric SUV to the Indian market this week, proving that it’s dead serious about expanding the I-Pace’s customer base. While parent company Tata Motors undoubtedly has a fondness for its home region, we cannot help but wonder if its a market worthy of pursuit considering the model’s starting price.
The manufacturer has the (90-kWh) I-Pace stickered at 105.91 lakh rupees, which translates to about $147,000 USD. Considering the unique way India writes out denominations and often transitions between crore and lakh as a way to avoid listing high-value items in the millions of rupees, we were initially convinced we’d messed up the conversion. The sum would not only eclipse the $70,000 MSRP Jaguar has affixed to the I-Pace in the United States, it makes it highly uncompetitive against the luxury EVs already on a market that’s not known for its wealthy consumer base. How could this be JLR and Tata’s preferred strategy?
We’re not the only ones asking, either. While attempting to verify whether the I-Pace’s Indian MSRP was a typo, we came across several other outlets that had come to the same conclusion and were now just scratching their heads. Bloomberg noted that over two-thirds of the market’s annual automotive sales take place in the sub-$10,000 bracket. This results in the region being loaded with interesting, affordable vehicles; it doesn’t make it a haven for six-figure luxury crossovers.
India is likewise lagging behind other populous nations in terms of EV adoption, mainly because it doesn’t have the infrastructure to support them. While the government has attempted to mitigate this by incentivizing private firms to building charging points along highways or just installing them at state-controlled fueling stations, large portions of the energy grid couldn’t possibly support widespread EV adoption. As things currently stand, only about 85 percent of Indians have regular access to electricity and the entire country has to share about 950 EV charging stations. But even the most isolated rural communities can source and store liquid fuel without too much trouble.
The gradual realization of this fact has forced Indian officials to scale back ambitions as it focuses on the fundamentals. In 2017, the country announced its desire to end the production of new internal-combustion cars by 2030. But the citizenry pushed back, complaining that EVs would need to come down immensely in price. India also has a relatively strong DIY community and many were worried that electric cars wouldn’t be something they could fix at home. The new plan has about one-third of new vehicle sales being electric by 2040 as the government attempts to solve the infrastructure puzzle.
Where does this leave the I-Pace? Stuck on the Ganges without out a paddle, we’d imagine. But Jaguar Land Rover India President Rohit Suri has suggested there are big advantages to being early. By being one of the only luxury EVs sold on the market, JLR thinks it can solidify itself as one of the premiere electric brands as the market matures.
“Given the high appeal and desirability of the Jaguar brand, we are confident that Jaguar I-Pace will be one of best-selling EVs in the country,” he said.
However, the automaker is likely in for an extended wait. In addition to the country’s infrastructure stalling its ability to abandon internal combustion vehicles, India’s EV sales currently account for less than 1 percent of all passenger vehicles.