BOMBAY — India's finance minister is giving more protection to the country's automakers against car imports by increasing, within a period of less than two months, total import duty to 120% from 85% (see WAI — April '01, p.3).
The move increases the incentive for domestic carmakers to build more models locally. Many of these foreign companies had plans to import luxury cars for niche markets until increasing demand made local manufacture worthwhile.
India Ltd., for example, may have to reevaluate its Vectra project. Other imports in line for a second look include Maruti Udyog Ltd.'s Suzuki Grand Vitara; Daewoo Motors India Ltd.'s Nubira and Lanos; India Ltd.'s Mondeo and Kirloskar Motor Ltd.'s Camry.
Motor Co. Ltd. was preparing to import five cars and multi-utility vehicles, plus an initial investment of $US200 million. The most successful of these models after two years was to be built or assembled locally. But Nissan now is applying brakes to its entry plans.
The higher tariffs, however, will boost local manufacturing plans forSiel Cars India Ltd., Motor India Ltd. and Mercedes-Benz India Ltd.
Additionally, the new tax regime encourages import of DaimlerChrysler AG's 0.6L 2-seat Smart.AG's New Beetle will follow later in the year.
While the stiffer tariffs encourage domestic production, they also will create a stumbling block for India, which in two years must lower import duties to meet the Asian Free Trade Area's (AFTA) requirements.