Bajaj Auto is set to take on small carmakers with the launch of the Qute, a quadricycle for personal transportation, in February 2019.
An alternative to a small car, it is expected to be priced ex-showroom between Rs 260,000 and Rs 300,000, and will offer better mileage (more than 30 km a litre) and less pollution than a car, and will be a convenient alternative to a two-wheeler
but at the same operating costs.
However, it can give a top speed of 70 km per hour, which is part of government regulation for this category and ideal for cities. Currently the Qute is sold only for commercial
transportation, but through a notification by the government a few days ago, it has been permitted for personal transportation.
The Qute for personal transportation
will have some changes in its specifications from the one for commercial
Speaking on this, Rajiv Bajaj, managing director of Bajaj Auto, said: “The Qute is an affordable urban mobility solution
on four wheels. Its closed body, seat belts and associated features offer a safe and more convenient alternative to the two-wheeler
at an operating cost that is similar.” He also pointed out it was “way less polluting and more fuel-efficient than a car”. Bajaj said: “We are an anti-car company in that the purpose of our strategy is to provide people, particularly those in our polluted and congested cities, smarter alternatives to cars, whether two-, three- or four-wheelers.”
According to him, the company does not have to make any major tweak to its existing Qute, which is meant for commercial
use, and will also look at building an electric vehicle of the same model later. The Qute will have a slightly higher price than the Maruti Alto 800, which has an ex-showroom price of Rs 256,000 in Delhi but a lower mileage of 24.7 km a litre.
Bajaj said there would be no need for any additional investment to churn out the personal transportation
vehicle. “We have a flexible plant that produces both our three-wheelers and the Qute, so capacity isn’t an issue.”
Asked on how many vehicles he expected to sell, Bajaj pointed out: “We will gradually ramp up production
as demand builds up. We will also look to export in all the emerging markets where Bajaj three-wheelers and two-wheelers are popular.”
Car companies, however, have fought a long, bitter battle against Bajaj on the issue of permitting quadricycles as a separate class of vehicles and have insisted that if they are permitted to be used for personal transportation they should follow the same norms of emission and safety of a passenger car.
However, the government has put in different norms of emission as well as safety rules for quadricycles. Maruti Suzuki
Chairman R C Bhargava said: “We have no problem of a four-wheel drive not looking like a passenger car. But the key question we had raised is that they should follow the same emission and safety norms which we as carmakers follow. The question is considering that even two-wheelers have to move to BS VI
emission norms by 2020, how can quadricycles have a different emission standard?”
But Bajaj Auto points out as vehicles are of different categories, having four wheels does not make one a passenger car.
Bajaj says each category of vehicles, which include two-wheelers, three-wheelers, quadricycles and cars, has its independent standards in all regulatory matters.