Tata Motors’ electric division has achieved the incredible feat of selling 1,00,000 electric vehicles (EVs) in a span of five years. Unlike the two-wheeler EV industry where start-ups have been the biggest players, in the four-wheeler EV space, Tata Motors – being a legacy brand – has bucked the trend and remains unchallenged so far. The first 10,000 sales took 44 months, the next 40,000 sales took 15 months and the remaining 50,000 took just nine months.
In an exclusive interaction with Autocar India, Shailesh Chandra, managing director of Tata Motors Passenger Vehicles and Tata Passenger Electric Mobility, says that he did not expect the brand's EV business to see such phenomenal growth with demand skyrocketing beyond its expectations. “The customers felt EVs were a car for the future, not the present. Fast forward to today, the customer mindset has transformed much faster than what we have anticipated," he says.
Tata Tiago EV a new bestseller
Tata Motors dominates the EV segment with a market share of over 85 percent, and its latest product, the Tiago EV, has gone on to become the bestselling EV in India within a year of its launch, having sold more than 19,000 units since deliveries began in January 2023.
Tata Motors' success story began by getting the Nexon EV's formula right – enough range for daily use, peppy performance and an affordable price tag packaged in an SUV body style. This has reflected in its sales, as, since launch, Tata Motors has sold over 50,000 units of the Nexon EV. The more affordable Tiago EV has opened up EV ownership to a wider base and sells alongside the Tigor EV. The manufacturer has plans to launch four EVs – Nexon EV facelift, Harrier EV, Punch EV and Curvv EV – within a year.
How Tata Motors grabbed the EV market
Chandra attributed the Nexon EV’s success to two primary reasons. The first was the word of mouth that seeded success early for the Nexon EV thanks to early adopters evangelising the product and swaying fence-sitters. Chandra says, “There was a lot of good word of mouth that gave comfort to the fence sitters that this is a practical car that can be used daily.” He even points out that initial buyers were under the impression that EVs could only be used as a secondary vehicle. “Many started using them as their primary car, and then the only car, having actually disposed of their internal combustion engine-powered vehicles when they got the comfort," he adds.
The second reason for the rapid pace of EV adoption was the central government's policy – five percent GST on EVs as compared to 28 percent on ICE. This was further helped by individual state EV policies such as waiving road and registration taxes.
Chandra says Tata Motors took a gamble when it entered the EV space in 2018 as the market was not ready for electrification. “When we entered, there were no enablers and we took this bet because it was the right thing to do.”
While many manufacturers have opted for the born-electric vehicle platform route, Tata Motors took the easy and cost-effective step of converting an existing ICE model to an EV, which was a tenth of the investment that a born-electric vehicle would require.
With their first EV – the XPres-T – based on the Tigor and reserved for fleet models, the initial set of customers and Tata Motors had to face certain challenges. Some initial Nexon EV customers also faced teething issues with the new technology, but Chandra mentions that “the idea was that we respond to those problems fast and do the root-cause analysis to have a combination of immediate as well as permanent corrective actions.”
In the city, there is still a high degree of comfort with respect to the range of an EV, but out on the highway, things become a little bit more difficult, and that, Chandra says, is the challenge holding people back from EVs. He says the range of EVs, as well as charging solutions on the highways need to improve at a rapid pace.
“As per our plan, we’re doing it progressively as the battery prices are coming down," he says, adding that instead of reducing the price of the car, Tata Motors is increasing the range, he adds.