Bajaj’s RE60: A Four-Wheeler, But Not a Car?

Bajaj unveiled its new four-wheeler vehicle at the 2012 Auto Expo. Photo by vm2827.

In 2001, Bajaj Auto Ltd. revolutionized the motorcycle market in India with the launch of the Pulsar two-wheeler. Now, the firm is looking at another sector-wide transformation: At the 2012 Auto Expo, Bajaj Auto Ltd. showcased its new four-wheeler, the RE 60. This is the first four-wheeler vehicle from the world’s leading producer of two- and three-wheelers.

The four-wheeler has been named after its rear engine (RE), in line with the structure of an auto-rickshaw. It is being marketed as a safer and more comfortable alternative to auto-rickshaws (i.e. three-wheelers) for intra-city transport. Bajaj Auto Ltd. Managing Director Mr Rajiv Bajaj  added that the vehicle is aimed at people who use three-wheelers, and the four-wheeler alternative would offer dramatic improvements over a conventional three-wheeler. The vehicle is also reported to have the lowest carbon emissions worldwide.

Bajaj Auto Ltd. is hopeful that the four-wheeler will replace the three-wheelers in the next few years. Interestingly, the vehicle is going to be manufactured on the three-wheeler manufacturing line at the Aurangabad plant, and it is expected to be commercially launched later this year. The vehicle will also be exported to other Asian, African and Latin American countries where Bajaj Auto Ltd. exports auto-rickshaws. The price of the vehicle hasn’t been announced, yet, but it is expected to cost no more than 25 percent more than a compressed natural gas (CNG) auto-rickshaw. A CNG variant of the vehicle has also been developed, and the operating profit margin is expected to be in the range of 20 percent.

Bajaj Auto Ltd. hopes that the RE60 will replace the 5 million three-wheelers across the country in years to come.  The company is currently undertaking perception analysis from various stakeholders, including members of industry and auto-rickshaw drivers.

While the RE60 was originally conceived as an answer to the compact Tata Nano, known as the “world’s cheapest car,” Bajaj Auto Ltd. has since made it clear that its new brand is targeted towards the three-wheeler sector and is not intended to compete with Tata Nano. While Tata targeted first-time car owners, Bajaj is looking to convert its existing market base of auto-rickshaws into the RE60 market. Even in terms of fuel efficiency and emissions, the RE60 fares better than the Tata Nano.

We will have to wait until the commercial launch of the RE60 to determine its true potential, but if Bajaj Auto Ltd. succeeds in its endeavor, this could serve as a watershed moment in the Indian auto-rickshaw sector.

 For full details and technical specifications on the RE60, click here.

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