It has got seatbelts and four wheels; however Bajaj Auto, the producer of India’s first quadricycle would rather you didn’t call it a car. Bajaj Auto is marketing RE60 as a more comfortable and stable alternative to a 3-wheeled auto rickshaws ubiquitous on Indian roads although it looks like a small hatchback and is likely to cost less. Top speed, weight and other specs such as safety norms, mean RE60 will not be classified as a car. Nonetheless, that didn’t stop executives from top manufacturing companies like Tata Motors from comparing it to a car and finding its safety features come up short.
Mr. Rajiv Bajaj, Managing Director at Bajaj insists RE60 is neither an autorickshaw nor a car. The government is even creating a new classification category for the vehicle that’s likely to be introduced within months. In every market that a 3-wheeler is available the quadricycle should be relevant. Because at the end of the day, it offers a very logical update from a 3-wheeler for people who want to pay a little more and want to have the safety and comfort of four wheels, seatbelts, four doors and a roof. In India, auto rickshaws basically have soft roof and no doors. These vehicles are usually turned into taxis and known in several countries as tuk-tuks. The E60 is a part of long term expansion strategy by the company to boost sales growth abroad and at home.
Bajaj Auto is the 2nd largest bike manufacturing and largest auto rickshaw manufacturing company of the world and sales of both these vehicles have decelerated over the last two years, hit by failing demand in slowing economy. Three-wheeler sales of Bajaj fell 6% in the 2012/2013 fiscal year compared to 17% increase in the previous year and 28% rise in 2010/2011. Exports of auto rickshaws and motorcycles account for more than a third of Bajaj’s sales. The manufacturer counts Piaggio of Italy, TVS Motor Company Limited and Mahindra and Mahindra Limited as competitors in the 3-wheeler category.
Safer, but not cheaper
The RE60 weights 400kgs, around 100kg more as compared to the smallest auto rickshaw of the company. Its engine can run on compressed natural gas or gasoline goes up to 40 miles per hour. Bajaj spent Rs. 5.5 billion developing the vehicle. The company can initially make up to 5000 vehicles per month and has been waiting for 2 years to get them on Indian roads. Bajaj hopes the quadricycles will catch on in countries where 3-wheelers are widespread and has sent samples for test runs in Kenya, Colombia and Sri Lanka. Rajiv, Managing Director however declined to give any sales forecasts. Nitesh Sharma, Analyst with brokerage Espirito Santo Securities said specifically in cities in the next 3 to 4 years it could replace the three-wheeler, mainly as it offers comfort, safety and superior fuel economy when compared to 3-wheelers.