Bajaj Auto announced on April 5 that it is ready for the commercial manufacture of its four-wheeler and is awaiting the central government-appointed panel’s decision to recognise a new automobile category called ‘quadricycle’ and define its manufacturing norms. “We will commence the production of the much-awaited new four-wheeler RE60 (product code) in the current financial year. The RE60 will be made out of our facility in Aurangabad, which is an existing unit that was manufacturing scooters and has long stopped doing so. The initial capacity will be 200 vehicles per day or 60,000 per annum and can be expanded,” said Rajiv Bajaj, Managing Director, Bajaj Auto.
He said that since the company was using existing facilities, it would save around Rs 300 crore in terms of investment. The RE60 was showcased at the Auto Expo earlier this year. It has a 216 cc petrol engine with CO2 emission of less than 100 grams per kilometre and weighs 398 kg. According to Bajaj, the engine could be converted into LPG and CNG options while a diesel variant could be considered at a later stage. “The committee is working on the regulations and norms for such vehicles, and we understand that the process for inclusion of the new class in the Central Motor Vehicles Regulations (CMVR) will take a few months,” said R C Maheshwari, President, Commercial Vehicles, Bajaj Auto.
Maheshwari added that the RE60 was focused on passenger carrying and would be an excellent solution to address the various issues related to greenhouse gas (CO2) emissions and fuel price hikes. “We want to create this category in India and offer commuters an intra-city last mile connectivity option. It will offer the fuel efficiency of an auto rickshaw and the convenience of a car,” Bajaj said. “Globally, it has been recognised that vehicles such as quadricycles help mitigate urban crisis of congestion and pollution due to mobility. As such, more than 13 models are planned to be launched in Europe in the next three years,” Maheshwari said.
Exports therefore will be on the priority list. “We will not hesitate to export first. We anyway sell more three-wheelers overseas than in India. We will certainly look at exporting to Asia, Africa, Latin America and even Europe. The RE60 has been built from day one to comply with international norms and was, in fact, inspired by Euro norms,” Bajaj said. Sri Lanka could well be the first market that the RE60 gets exported to. “It could be Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Egypt or Nigeria — all markets where we export more than 1,000 three-wheelers a month. Although, last year, tariffs went up significantly for Indian products in Sri Lanka, we still sell 7,000 motorcycles and three-wheelers a month there,” he added.
Europe is the largest market for quadricycles and Bajaj said the company could address that market through its partnership with Renault-Nissan. “We never stopped talking to Renault and at no point have they said they are not interested in the project. It is fine as the project is not hinged on Europe and the main growth markets are Asia, Latin America and Africa,” he stated. Bajaj also proposed restrictions on quadricycles. “First, they should not be allowed on highways and expressways. Second, as in Europe, there should be a weight restriction of 450 kg, and third, there should be a speed restriction of 70 kmph as against 90 in Europe,” he suggested.
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