MG Motor unveiled an electric sport utility vehicle in India, becoming just the second automaker to launch such a product in a market where clean-energy cars have yet to make a dent.
The iconic British brand also known as Morris Garages, now owned by Chinese giant SAIC Motor Corp., showed off its ZS model Thursday in New Delhi. The vehicle can go as far as 340 kilometers (211 miles) on a single charge, Rajeev Chaba, president of MG Motor India, told reporters.
The vehicle will take on vehicles sold by South Korea’s Hyundai Motor Co., the only other brand with an electric SUV in India. The companies are trying to grab an early mover’s advantage in the world’s fourth-largest automobile market as Prime Minister Narendra Modi pushes the country to adopt cleaner energy.
SAIC Motor is the first Chinese entrant in a notoriously difficult market where the likes of General Motors Co. and Ford Motor Co. have struggled. Electric cars have a particularly steep hill to climb in luring buyers away from more traditional offerings. The nation’s best-selling gas guzzler costs just $4,000, or about double of what an average Indian earns in a year.
The ZS comes with a sky roof and a built-in air purifier, and it’ll initially be sold in five major cities, including New Delhi and Mumbai. While the price will be announced next month, MG previously said it could be about 2.5 million rupees ($35,000).
SAIC will be up against Hyundai, which launched its Kona electric SUV earlier this year, as well as Maruti Suzuki India Ltd., the local unit of Suzuki Motor Corp. Together, they control two-thirds of a market where 3.4 million passenger vehicles were sold in the year through March. In contrast, barely more than 8,000 EVs were sold locally during the past six years, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.
Challenging Hyundai and Maruti, which have a strong network of dealers and maintenance facilities across the country, has proven difficult. Ford in October agreed to move most of its assets in India into a joint venture with Mahindra & Mahindra Ltd. after struggling for more than two decades, while GM pulled out of India two years ago, scrapping a $1 billion investment and stopping sales of Chevrolet models.