Mercedes-Benz's new "made in India" car is unlikely to give India's fledgeling electric vehicles (EV) market the push it needs.
Experts suggest that the 1.55 crore rupees ($) EQS 580, the company's 14th "made in India" model, won't make much difference to an industry harbouring larger-than-life ambitions amid creeping gloom.
"Even the locally assembled cars by Mercedes Benz cost more than 1 crore rupees [$122,800]...With this price tag, the yearly sales volumes [in the EV sector] might not even touch a few hundred cars per year," said Rohit Sharma, director of engineering at the Noida-based JD Concord Design Solution, an automotive-tech firm.
Launched last week, the EQS 580 is India's first-ever locally produced (assembled) EV.
Currently, EVs constitute around 1% of India's car sales.
What's special about the Mercedes-Benz EV in India?
Built at the company's plant in Pune, Maharashtra, the EQS 580 is India's longest-range (677 kilometres) EV, the Automotive Research Association of India has said. The vehicle is equipped with a 400-volt battery.
Mercedes-Benz is now looking to establish the greatest "ultra-fast charging network," covering 80% of India by the end of 2022.
"The network will be restricted to Mercedes-Benz customers for the first year, with 24/7 free charging services provided to ensure hassle-free ownership of the company's electric lineup," said Martin Schwenk, Mercedes-Benz India CEO, at the launch.
The German firm's latest move in India has come at a time when rivals like Audi have been seeking low import duties on EVs. India levies a 60% import tax on items costing up to $40,000 and 100% on vehicles above that.
Such high taxes have kept the likes of Tesla off the market.
The way forward for India's EV sector
The EQS 580 may provide some good faith to a sector desperately looking for some positivity, especially amid the many fire accidents involving EVs in India. However, that may not be enough.
"For robust sales and push to the Indian EV market, manufactures must follow Indian customers' primary requirement of affordability," said Sharma of JD Concord Design Solution.
"...Only vehicles with a high level of localisation and adoption of cheaper but efficient technologies can companies penetrate the common man's and Indian EV sector's needs."