not just Tata Motors; three two-wheeler makers are racing
to bring out a one-lakh rupee four-wheeler, says Mohini
Bhatnagar. But, regulatory and safety issues are delaying
the ''quadricycle'', which could become the common man''s
announcements indicate that Tata Group chairman Ratan
Tata''s dream one-lakh car may be on the road in 2008.
Tata repeatedly emphasises that his company''s one-lakh
car would be a proper car with world-class safety standards,
not a scooter or three-wheeler with extra wheels and
last remark seems to point at the four-wheeler, four-seater
''quadricycle'' that Bajaj Auto, Piaggio and TVS Motors,
are each developing. Had it not been for the confusion
prevailing in the Indian automobile industry regarding
the vehicle, at least one of the Rs1-lakh quadricycles
under development could have been running on the road
India planned to introduce its quadricycle in 2004,
as its parent company had developed a new line for the
product and wanted to source around 50 per cent of its
components from India. Initially, the vehicles were
to be pick-up vans, while the passenger variants were
to have come by 2005.
company''s managing director Ravi Chopra told domain-b
about "some confusion in the industry over the
classification of a quadricycle" which, he hoped,
would get sorted out soon. Piaggio now plans to launch
a 1.5-tonne goods carrying version, and says it will
consider introducing a passenger version later.
In 2004, the Chennai-based TVS Motor had announced that
it was developing a quadricycle that would be on the
roads by end-2006, and would be priced at Rs1.2 lakh.
Bajaj Auto, the largest three-wheeler maker in the country,
is now under the helm of Rajiv Bajaj. This dynamic young
man, who scripted the ''Pulsar'' success story, is planning
to transform the two- and three-wheeler leviathan and
make it a manufacturer of four-wheelers too. Bajaj has
already announced that it is working on a four-wheeler
priced at Rs1 lakh.
believes that a two- and three-wheeler maker would be
better positioned to manufacture a low-cost car than
a conventional carmaker. According to him, "There
is little difference between a one-litre motorcycle
engine and the Maruti''s 800cc-engine." He believes
that while it may not be too difficult to make a one-lakh
car, making it popular would be the real challenge.
four-wheeler is at a concept stage, and though he says
his company is nowhere as close as Tata Motors to bringing
out a vehicle, "We definitely want to develop a
light, four-wheel vehicle to move people and goods".
The Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers (SIAM)
is divided on the safety norms that will have to be
incorporated, in case the quadricycle is used for moving
people. Some in the industry want the gross vehicle
weight to be higher than 600kg, while others feel that
600kg the internationally prescribed lower limit
quadricycle is a four-wheeler that is not a car, bus,
truck or any other clearly defined vehicle. It is in
fact the predecessor of the car, and was first developed
during the early 20th century. The European
Commission defines a quadricycle as "a four-wheeled
vehicle weighing no more than 400kg (550kg for a goods
vehicle), excluding traction batteries in the case of
electric vehicles, with a net power of no more than
are very popular in Europe, Japan and other South Asian
countries. Four-wheeled bicycle variants include the
Mitsouka MC-1 and the Q-Car. In the US, 37 states have
passed legislation allowing quadricycles on their roads.
Canada is also planning to pass legislation to allow
the price of fuel skyrocketing at regular intervals,
fuel saving has become a watchword globally. The biggest
advantage a quadricycle offers over a car is low fuel
consumption; it gives a mileage of more than 35km to
a litre. The greatest advantage it has over two- and
three-wheelers is that it is stable at higher speeds
and, as it is built on a modified three-wheeler chassis,
it costs not much more than the humble autorickshaw.
if one ignores prestige and status, autorickshaws are
best suited to the narrow congested streets and chaotic
traffic conditions of India''s towns, which don''t allow
drivers to drive faster than 40km per hour at most times.
2004-05, around one million passenger cars were sold
in India. In the same year, three million two wheelers
in western countries, where people buy two-wheelers
mainly for thrills and fun, in India, people buy two-wheelers
mainly because they can''t afford to buy cars.
to 2004 statistics released by the Loss Prevention
Association of India (LPA), over 85,000 road fatalities
are reported in India every year, making it the most
dangerous nation to drive in. Further, says the LPA,
a two-wheeler rider is five times as prone to accidents
as someone in a four-wheeler. Most fatalities in two-wheeler
accidents resulted from grievous head injuries to
pillion riders thrown from the vehicle.
autorickshaws that crowd the roads of Indian cities
and towns weigh no more than 300kg to 400kg, but often
carry more passengers than taxis do. Autorickshaws
are inherently unstable and have a bad accident record.
When driven faster than 40km per hour, they time and
again topple over on turns, resulting in death and
grievous injury to occupants. But they continue to
it not seem strange that SIAM is not really concerned
about the weight and safety aspects of three-wheelers,
while the future of quadricycles remains in limbo?
2004, nearly 34 million two-wheelers had been registered
in India, accounting for nearly 70 per cent of all
motor vehicles in
should be obvious to the most casual of observers
that those who say what the country needs are small,
fuel-efficient four wheelers, deserve a sympathetic