Why cracking India’s booming car market is not so simple

India’s automotive market has been a sleeping giant. Only 18 out of 1,000 Indians own a car, compared with nearly 800 in the United States and around 500 in the European Union.

With 1.34 billion people in the country, the potential is staggering — and just this year, India passed Germany to become the fourth-largest market in the world, according to the Financial Times, including passenger cars and light-commercial vehicles.

McKinsey forecasts that India will overtake Japan for the third spot in 2021.

But making long-term inroads with even a small fraction of the country’s hundreds of millions of potential car owners has frustrated one company after another, from Volkswagen Group to Ford to General Motors.