New Delhi: Bajaj Auto Ltd on Tuesday unveiled a locally developed four-wheeled vehicle that could become the successor to the ubiquitous three-wheeled autorickshaw.
“With a state-of-the-art engine, we intend to sell this vehicle, the RE60, in the mass-volume price segment,” managing director Rajiv Bajaj said. “We are presenting an optimized solution for intra-city passenger transport. This vehicle has been designed for intra-city use keeping in mind the intra-city duty cycles and safety requirements.”
Bajaj said his company will be able to start commercial production in a few months. Prices will be announced once production starts.
Coming soon: Bajaj Auto managing director Rajiv Bajaj at the launch of the firm’s four-wheeler RE60 in New Delhi on Tuesday. Photo: AP
The vehicle is powered by a 200 cc rear-mounted petrol engine and can run 35 km on a litre of the fuel, Bajaj said. The RE60 can run at a top speed of 70 km per hour and weighs 400 kg.
Bajaj said that the core market for the RE60 would be owners of three-wheeled auto rickshaws who want to upgrade to four wheels
“We plan to target people who use a three-wheeler almost every day,” Bajaj said. “We hope that states will be interested in replacing over 5 million three-wheelers, which have been plying on the roads for the last 20 years.”
The product, which has been developed on the platform Bajaj Auto had initially planned to use for its ultra low-cost car (ULCC), will emit 60g/km of CO2, which Bajaj said was “typically half of what the small cars currently emit in our market”.
In 2009, Bajaj had entered into an agreement with Franco-Japanese alliance Renault-Nissan to develop and sell a ultra low-cost car, which was to compete with Tata Motors Ltd’s Nano. While Bajaj Auto was to design and develop the vehicle, Renault and Nissan were charged with branding, marketing and selling the product. In November 2009, Rajiv Bajaj said that the product being developed would be aligned differently from the initial concept as the small car was commercially unviable.
“The objective was to make a four-wheeler. For the last two years, we have been saying that we are not a car company,” Bajaj said. “Doing the right thing with conviction and attention is our priority. The basic application of this vehicle is moving people and not goods.”
Bajaj said the alliance partners have understood Bajaj’s concept.
“They would come to Auto Expo and see the car and then decide how to take it forward. I want to clarify, at no point we intended to be contract manufacturers for Renault-Nissan. We can supply to Renault-Nissan if they wish,” Bajaj said. “And if they want to stand up and walk away, they are most welcome.”
However, a consultant, who has also worked with Hero MotoCorp Ltd, said the development was an important achievement by the company.
“The occasion marks a remarkable transition from being a scooter company to a motorcycle firm and now a two-wheeler company that also makes four-wheelers,” said Pradeep Saxena, executive director, TNS Automotive, a marketing research firm.
“With the kind of processes and background Bajaj has, it was expected out of them,” said Saxena. “But I am really not sure about the vehicle. A lot will depend upon the performance as they will face some serious competition from the Tata Nano, Ace and Iris.”
Developed over a period of four years, the RE60 is scheduled for launch in the country later this year. But the product may find its way to Sri Lanka ahead of its commercial launch in the domestic market. “We make about 500,000 three-wheelers a year, of which only 200,000 are sold in India. We see huge potential for the product in the export markets of Asia, Latin America and Africa,” Bajaj said.