India’s Tesla dream over with CFO Deepak Ahuja’s exit

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Tesla CEO Elon Musk. (File photo: IANS)

New Delhi, Jan 31: Tesla Founder and CEO Elon Musk who handed over the keys to his Indian-origin Chief Financial Officer Deepak Ahuja to go and scout if his electric cars can run on Indian roads, has announced that Ahuja is retiring, again.

A man who prefers to stay behind-the-scenes, Ahuja flew to India a couple of times in recent years, seeking to know from the government and other key stakeholders whether there is a will to let Tesla enter India.

Musk wanted to drive Tesla in India in 2017 and Ahuja, who worked out of Tesla’s San Carlos headquarters, quit the company in 2015 only to rejoin in 2017, was his Man Friday to achieve that.

In May last year, Tesla CEO Elon Musk said he would still love to roll out Tesla electric cars in India but the tough government regulations have forced him to apply the brakes on his plans.

“Would love to be in India. Some challenging government regulations, unfortunately,” Musk tweeted in a response to a Twitter user who wrote “No Tesla in India” on his Twitter handle.

“Deepak Ahuja, our CFO, is from India. Tesla will be there as soon as he believes we should,” added Musk, also the SpaceX founder.

Ahuja, a seasoned auto industry finance executive with 15 years experience at Ford Motor Company, joined Tesla Motors as its first CFO in 2008.

He holds a Bachelor’s degree in ceramic engineering from the Indian Institute of Technology (BHU), Master’s degree from Robert R. McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science of Northwestern University and is an MBA from Carnegie Mellon University.

In 2017, Musk said Tesla’s cars could come to India in the summer but there was no further news.

Musk later blamed the FDI norms for the delay in Tesla’s entry into the Indian market.

“Maybe I’m misinformed, but I was told that 30% of parts must be locally sourced and the supply doesn’t yet exist in India to support that,” he had tweeted.

The Make in India’s Twitter handle replied back to Musk: “@elonmusk With respect to news reports on launch plans of Tesla in India being delayed, please note some key clarifications#MakeInIndia”.

Tesla was expected to enter India with the Model 3 that sells for nearly $35,000. 

In 2015, Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited Tesla headquarters at Palo Alto, California and met Musk who gave Modi a tour of the company’s electric car plant.

“Prime Minister Modi and I talked about electricity generation and how there are ways to skip ahead with it as with cellphones,” Musk said later.

On Wednesday, Musk said that Ahuja’s retirement “won’t be immediate” and that “he will continue to serve as a senior adviser to the company”.

“There is no good time to make this change. It’s a new chapter, a new year. Tesla has had two great quarters of profitability and cash flow, it’s on a really solid foundation,” Ahuja said, thus burying India’s Tesla dream once again.