Bajaj quadricycle all set to roll; but stalled lacking govt nod

Bajaj Auto, India's leading two-wheeler manufacturer, today said it plans to roll out 5,000 units a month of its much-delayed four-seat rear-engined "quadricycle", provisionally named RE60, from its Aurangabad plant.

The plans however cannot take off immediately as the company is still awaiting a green signal from the government.

Bajaj Auto managing director Rajiv Bajaj told newspersons in Mumbai that though it has an in-principle go-ahead from the government, commercial production could not start until a government-appointed committee, set up to define the category of this vehicle, submits its report.

The company claims a mileage of 35 km per litre for the vehicle, with a 216-litre petrol engine, and emissions will be very low.

Unveiling the new, still unclassified vehicle, Bajaj said the company will roll out the "revolutionary four-wheeler RE60" from its Aurangabad plant, where it used to manufacture its once iconic scooters.

He gave no financials, including the likely price of the vehicle or the amount of investment in developing it. "Pricing will be decided only after regulations are in place," he said.

Explaining the reason for the hold-up, Bajaj Auto's president commercial vehicles R C Maheshwari said, "The government has given us an in-principle approval to create this new class of four-wheelers or quadricycles.

"A committee is working on regulations and norms for such vehicles. We understand that the process for the final inclusion of this new class in the commercial vehicles segment will take a few months more."

He also pointed out that such vehicles have already been classified in Europe, the USA, Canada, Japan and other parts of Asia, and suggested that the government follow similar classification and standards.

"We will be ready to begin commercial production as soon approvals are in, hopefully this fiscal itself," Bajaj said.

He said that if approvals took too long to come, he would look into launching the product outside the country. He cited the SAARC region and Latin America as alternate launch pads.

"In terms of exports, the vehicle would be relevant to all markets to which we export our three wheelers. So markets in Asia such as Sri Lanka and Bangladesh, African markets like Nigeria, Tanzania, Kenya and Uganda, as well as Latin American markets like Columbia and Mexico are promising," he said.

He said his company would prefer to go with its partners, the Renault-Nissan combine, to take the vehicle to Europe, hinting that an alliance with the French car major is yet to be called off.

Renault had a tentative agreement with Bajaj to market a small car made by the latter; but rejected the quadricycle model as not being a full-fledged car.