Bajaj Auto Ltd, the largest maker of three-wheelers in the country, said it is trying to develop a small car in an effort to compete in India’s biggest selling car segment. “The experimentation of an interesting concept, that of a small but not at all a cheap car, is on,” said Rajiv Bajaj, managing director of Bajaj Auto.
The car will be a high-tech vehicle and is being developed mostly in-house, Bajaj added. He likened it to a ‘Pulsar’ on four wheels. The Pulsar is the company’s premium-segment bike. Bajaj is also India’s second largest maker of two-wheelers.
Bajaj Auto had previously said that it was looking at developing light commercial vehicles. Small cars made up about two-thirds of the 1.4 million cars sold in India last year and the segment is expected to grow further. That’s prompted several companies including Honda Motor Co. and Tata Motors Ltd, India’s largest truck maker, to eye the space. Tata is planning to launch a Rs1 lakh car, which will be India’s cheapest at that price. It will cost nearly half that of the ‘Maruti 800’, the cheapest car currently available.
Bajaj Auto also launched a new version of a 220cc ‘Pulsar’ DTS-Fi, its fifth model in the high-end two-wheeler segment.Pune-based Bajaj aims to sell more than 200,000 two-wheelers a month, starting October, compared with monthly sales of about 170,000 in the June-September period.
Bajaj and its bigger rival Hero Honda Motors Ltd cut production this month after interest rates which are at a five-year high curbed demand in the world’s second biggest motorcycle market. Motorcycle makers in India are also paying more to buy steel, aluminium and rubber, affecting margins.
Bajaj Auto, which lowered prices of its Platina and other models as higher lending rates eroded sales, is setting up an initial production capacity of 50,000 units a month for the new motorcycle at its factory in Aurangabad in western India.
The company is also reworking its ‘Hamara Bajaj’ advertising campaign. It will soon unveil a new commercial with the tag line, “Alag andaaz, alag hai khoj, rakhe aage, hamari soch” that loosely translates as: “A different style, a different search will keep us ahead”.
(Santanu Choudhury of Bloomberg contributed to this story.)