MG Motor wants to "define and lead" the EV space in India, to offer charging stations too

by Sumantra B Barooah 13 Nov 2019

MG Motor, one of the two newcomers in the Indian passenger vehicle market this year, is in an aggressive mode to grow, not only in the conventional internal combustion vehicle industry but also in the emerging electric passenger vehicle market. That's perhaps reflected in its strategy of making the second of its first five models, an EV.

"We want to lead the EV category in the country. Our next offering, the ZS EV, is going to be a game-changing thing. I think the Indian consumers would not have experienced this kind of a car in India," Rajeev Chaba, president and MD, MG Motor India tells Autocar Professional. That's a tall claim that I would expect  from a CEO who is "excited" about his next launch (in January). "You can evaluate after two-three months on how we are approaching this whole (EV) issue versus what others are doing," says Chaba.

The approach MG Motor India plans for the EV space includes multiple factors beyond its ZS electric SUV. Charging infrastructure is another focus area. The automaker plans to tap 5 cities in the first phase, and offer its own charging infrastructure to address range anxiety, a major hurdle in the way of mass adoption of EVs.

The strategy also aims to earn customers' confidence to invest in MG's electric SUV.  The ZS is expected to come with a 44kwH battery and offer a driving range of over 250km on a single charge. While the company will set up charging infrastructure in select cities, Chaba says charging stations on the highways will be crucial, and this is one area where the government should step in. "We can provide something in the city, but if you want to do the inter-city movement then on the highways the infrastructure has to be there. The government is planning," says Chaba.

The ZS is an SUV, but as it's an EV, MG Motor India plans a different approach to sell it and much of it may not have to do anything with the vehicle. Beyond the price, the OEM plans to invest time, money and effort in educating the customers and addressing the audience. They are keen on providing the EV experience to people who are interested, creating an ecosystem, tying up with charging infrastructure companies and also addressing the second life of the EV battery.  "So, the whole thing, the way it has to be addressed I think has not been done in our country so far and we want to do that," says Chaba. Some of these activities are expected to begin in the ‘next few weeks’.

The MG ZS EV is expected to be priced at around Rs 22 lakh, to undercut the Hyundai Kona (Rs 23.7 lakh), the only other EV by a global OEM in India. Though there's been talks and intermittent action by only a few in the electric mobility space so far, it's now that the space is set to get more interesting with  the entry of global OEMs.

Targeting sale of 3,000 ZS EVs annually
As action builds up in the fledgling EV industry, MG Motor India has an ambition to play a lead role. "No global player is there except one competitive entry as you said. So, I think definitely we want to define and lead this whole thing," says Chaba. According to a PTI report, MG Motor India plans to sell 2,000-3,000 units of the SZ EV annually. Chaba says the volumes "are not going to be high to start with but definitely it's going to be more than tokenism".

The EV industry seems to be gaining traction, and it could be just the beginning of the game.  "Lots of things have to be done. There are infrastructure issues. We are trying to address as much as possible what we can do but we are dependent on the government for the highway infrastructure and other places," says Chaba.

Electric mobility is also boosting the need for collaboration. "Nobody can do things on their own now. Government cannot do, private parties cannot do on their own. So, we need to have stakeholders and all of us need to do it together. We definitely are going to take one big step and hope others can also join us," says Chaba.

So, will the MG Motor deliver on its claims with its big and first step in the Indian EV space? We'll find out in January 2020 when the ZS is commercially launched. It will be MG Motor India's first of the four new offerings slated for the next year and half. The market response to the ZS will determine the OEM's strategy of offering more EVs in India in the near future.