Bajaj JV in limbo as Nissan checks priorities

Japanese carmaker maker Nissan is yet to decide on its partnership with Bajaj Auto for a low-cost car as it is reviewing priorities in the entry-level small car segment in India, the company said on Monday.

"We have not yet made a definitive decision on the partnership with Bajaj. However, we are aware of the difficulties faced in sales of competitor cars at the lower price points, where basic customer car needs may not be fully met," Nissan Motor India managing director and chief executive Takayuki Ishida told PTI.

This seemed a clear hint of the rock on which the partnership is essentially foundering – Bajaj designers are bent on building the car on a three-wheel platform, while Nissan insists on a vehicle fully designed as a car or nothing.

"We are therefore in a full review of priorities - segment by segment and market by market - in the price entry zones, and will make our final decision as part of our annual product plan usually closed in January," Ishida added.

Under the agreement reached between Renault-Nissan and Bajaj Auto in 2009, the Indian automaker was supposed to design, develop and manufacture a low-cost car, which Renault-Nissan would sell under their brand-name. But the agreement was always rather tentative, and dependent on Nissan's acceptance of the Bajaj product.
Bajaj Auto had unveiled the RE60, a mini-four wheeler meant for urban transportation to replace three-wheelers at the Auto Expo in New Delhi in January this year. At the time, Bajaj Auto managing director Rajiv Bajaj had said it would be up to Renault-Nissan whether to source it or not after seeing the product.

Bajaj had however refused to call the RE60, powered by a 200cc rear mounted petrol engine with a top speed of 70 kmph, as a car, saying it was a commercial vehicle meant for passenger transportation.