New Delhi: Entry-level car buyers in India will soon have a new range of small personal mobility vehicles to choose from. The ministry of road transport and highways, in a notification on 20 November, has approved the sale of quadricycles for personal use. Motorized quadricycles were so far allowed to ply only for commercial use.

“The idea is to give another mobility option, especially to the middle class who want to upgrade from two-wheelers. A person cannot carry family members in a three-wheeler, therefore, quadricycles are being allowed in the private category. The move will help them to upgrade to four-wheelers and move around with family," said a senior transport ministry official, requesting anonymity.

The ministry official, however, said such quadricycles will not be allowed for transporting cargo or luggage. Bajaj Auto Ltd’s Qute, the first locally produced quadricycle, had initially hit regulatory hurdles due to safety concerns. Others such as Tata Motors Ltd and Mahindra and Mahindra Ltd are also expected to launch similar products over the next couple of years.

Now, with the centre giving a go-ahead on the sale of quadricycles for personal use, top auto makers such as Maruti Suzuki India Ltd and Hyundai Motor India Ltd, will have to revamp their strategy on entry-level cars, given quadricycles are expected to be far cheaper.

In June, the transport ministry headed by Nitin Gadkari, had approved the launch of quadricycles, which weigh less than 475 kg.

Avik Chattopadhayay, an auto industry veteran, and founder of brand consultancy firm Expereal, said quadricycles will pose a serious challenge to entry level cars. “Quadricycle is a modern version of a three wheeler and in future these vehicles will all become quadricycles. Some companies have been trying to push their wheelers as a mode of personal transport for some years now and I think these vehicles should be encouraged in electric mode."

An emailed query to Bajaj Auto remained unanswered till press time, while officials at industry body, Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers, declined to comment.

A section of industry insiders, however, are not happy with the move. They argued that while the government is trying to improve the safety standards of vehicles for Indian roads, quadricycles may not even meet the basic safety norms.

“Quadricycles should have been restricted only for commercial purposes since they don’t meet the emission and safety norms of passenger cars. The regulators have been lenient and have diluted the norms for vehicles in this segment. When the objective is to launch safer vehicles, then there is no reason to allow these vehicles," said a senior executive of a leading passenger vehicle manufacturer. According to a senior industry executive, requesting anonymity, quadricycles were only meant to replace auto rickshaws, and are not for personal use. “There will be restrictions on these vehicles. For example, one cannot take them on highways. So, it will not be a lucrative proposition for any buyer."

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