Traditional rivals in the light passenger and goods carrying segment Pune-based Bajaj Auto and Piaggio Vehicles are ramping up their presence in these categories.
The two companies have been busy developing these new products during the last several months even as retail demand for them remains upbeat as the rest of the market falters.
Bajaj Auto, India's biggest three-wheeler manufacturer, is replacing its entire line-up of three-wheelers with a new and upgraded range. The company has three product in the main cargo three-wheelers and several variants of passenger three-wheelers.
The new range of passenger and cargo models, which will be launched later this year, will deliver better mileage and superior performance than the current range. Three-wheeler remain the company's one of the highest margin generators for Bajaj Auto.
Italian company Piaggio, meanwhile, is not just looking at upgrading its three-wheelers but is keen to exploit the mini four-wheeler cargo segment dominated by Mumbai-based Tata Motors.
Piaggio Vehicles (PVPL), the 100% India subsidiary of the Italian company, has already launched a cargo four wheeler with a payload capacity of half tonne. The Ape Mini belongs to the range of Ape light commercial vehicles promoted by the company in the cargo and passenger segment.
Further, a new one tonne four wheeled vehicle will be launched by the company later this year. This product is aimed at further improving its position in the last mile segment of cargo application, currently dominated by the Tata Ace. Piaggio already has the Ape Truk Plus which has a payload of one tonne.
Ravi Chopra, chairman and managing director, PVPL, said, "We have made a product which is a half tonner four-wheeled cargo vehicle similar, for reference, to the Tata (Ace) Zip. That product will be in the market by January-February. We are developing a vehicle which is a one tonner in the same category as the Mahindra Maxximo and Tata Ace, that vehicle will also be in the market in the coming months."
According to data provided by the Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers, the three wheeler segment posted a growth of five% in the period April-December this year selling 4.02 lakh units.
Bajaj Auto remained the market leader in this segment with a share of 41% while Piaggio followed closely behind with a share of 34%. Though Bajaj's share in the passenger carrier is upbeat its share in the cargo segment has dipped.
Manufacturers say that the reason behind the fall in demand for cargo three-wheeler is because a substantial chunk of buyers have moved to four-wheeled mini trucks of 2 tonne and upto 3.5 tonne, segments which are dominated by Tata Motors and Mahindra.
Ashok Leyland's Dost and Tata Motors Ace have been seeing robust demand in this segment. Piaggio's sales in this segment has plummeted to 2,175 units, a fall of 75% during the same period as against 8,736 units sold in the corresponding period last year.
The company hopes to arrest this fall with new products and with a range of new engines which it begins to make at its plant in Maharashtra. These new diesel engines will be of the capacity of 1-1.2 litre.