Bajaj-Renault cheap car alliance nearing end of road

The arrangement between Bajaj Auto and the Renault-Nissan combine to produce a low-cost car for India seems all but dead on the water, going by recent statements from Renault.

The French carmaker on Tuesday said it might even go solo on the project. ''The ULC (ultra low cost car) project is not among the five cars we have scheduled for launch in the Indian market by the end of 2012. We have not seen the prototype yet; we can only decide on marketing the vehicle only after seeing the product,'' said Marc Nassif, managing director, Renault India.

He said different options were available with the company to take forward its low-cost car ambitions. "We always have a lot of projects going on," he added, without elaborating.

Renault has lately been queasy about its essentially informal agreement with Bajaj in 2008 under which the Indian company was to design the low-cost car, while Renault and its Japanese partner Nissan would sell it under their brand names - if the quality was found acceptable.

Apart from slow progress on the project, Renault was further bugged by the Bajaj announcement that it is developing a four-wheel goods carrier, and the same platform would be used for developing a three-wheel carrier as well as the ULC car.

Renault said it would not accept anything less than a car designed to be a car, rather than a spin-off from some other platform.

In May, Nassif said it may pull out if the car being developed and manufactured by Bajaj if it does not meet expectations. (See: Renault may turn its back on Bajaj mini-car).