Bajaj adds fourth wheel to auto-rickshaw

“The core customer must be those people who use the three-wheeler every day,” Bajaj said.

Written by Atideb Sarkar | New Delhi | Published: January 4, 2012 12:45:11 am

The auto-rickshaw might soon add a fourth wheel. Bajaj Auto,the world’s largest maker of three-wheelers,on Tuesday unveiled a four-wheel vehicle targeted primarily at existing three-wheeler customers for travel within cities.

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The company did not disclose the price at which the RE60 would be sold. But Rajiv Bajaj,managing director,said its marketing would focus on regular users of three-wheelers.

“The core customer must be those people who use the three-wheeler every day,” Bajaj said.

The RE60,which can seat up to four people,has a maximum speed of 70 kilometres per hour and mileage up to 35 kilometres per litre. It has a turning radius of 3.5 metres and a 200cc,fuel-injected,four-valve engine.

Engines of auto-rickshaws have a similar capacity.

However,Bajaj insisted that the vehicle,on display at the Auto Expo later this week,was a “dramatic”,rather than an “incremental”,improvement on the company’s three-wheelers,nearly all of which in India are used as auto-rickshaws.

He said: “This is not a ‘super’ three-wheeler. This is a four-wheeler… (But) I’ll be happy if people buying three-wheelers move whole-heartedly to four-wheelers.”

The car will be manufactured at Bajaj’s Aurangabad plant,which produces primarily for the auto-rickshaw market.

Bajaj said the company would consider supplying the vehicle to French car maker Renault,and Japanese manufacturer Nissan.

“At no point we intended to be contract manufacturers for Renault-Nissan…. With small or big modification,we can supply to Renault-Nissan if they wish,” Bajaj said.

Executives from Renault-Nissan will see the vehicle in physical form at the Auto Expo.

Bajaj’s entry into the four-wheeler market comes after a 2.95 per cent dip in auto-rickshaw sales between April and November last year. Sales of three-wheel goods carriers rose 15.94 per cent in the same period,according to the Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers,an industry lobby.

The product will also seek markets in Africa and elsewhere in Asia. The RE60 is likely to be launched in Sri Lanka,where 9,000 of Bajaj’s 10,000 three-wheelers are driven by private users.

“If we look at the three-wheelers Bajaj Auto sells in India,and add to that what we export,it’s a sizeable opportunity,” Bajaj said.

But,closer to home,Bajaj joked that the vehicle might help do away with the three-wheeled “eyesores” for the Delhi chief minister,Sheila Dikshit.

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