Rajiv Bajaj’s ‘Mad in India’ jibe: The not so ‘Qute’ journey of his quadricycle ‘car’

What went wrong with the Bajaj Qute quadricycle and why can't it ply on Indian roads despite being exported? We explain.

By: | Updated: February 17, 2017 4:12 PM
Bajaj criticised the demonetisation move and said that it wasn't the execution only to blame but the idea itself was wrong. Bajaj criticised the demonetisation move and said that it wasn't the execution only to blame but the idea itself was wrong.

At the Annual Nasscom Leadership Forum, Bajaj criticised the demonetisation move and said that it wasn't the execution only to blame but the idea itself was wrong. “If the solution or the idea is right, it will go like a hot knife through butter. If the idea is not working, for example, demonetisation, don’t blame execution. I think your idea itself is wrong”, he said. He also fired a salvo at the Make In India policy by saying “If your innovation in the country depends on government approval or judicial process, it will not be a case of ‘Made in India’, but ‘Mad in India’. After five years, we are still waiting for permission to sell our four-wheeler in the country.”

What Bajaj was referring to is the Qute, which has been a pain point for the company since the last few years. In order to understand what the pain is about, one needs to understand what the Qute is actually. Many might recall that long time back Renault had announced to launch a micro car that would be manufactured in collaboration with Bajaj Auto. The project known as the Ultra Low-Cost Car Project resulted in a vehicle known as the RE60, which for various reasons never reached its intended stage and subsequently Renault too pulled out of the project. The most common reason that floated around was that Renault did not like the end result in the form of RE60. After all, the Nano had failed to sell so it made little business sense to launch a smaller and cheaper car as it was clear by then that Indians do not like things that relate to the word 'cheap'.

That left Bajaj with the RE60 for itself and it had to figure out a way to do something with it. Thereafter, came the talk of the RE60 being classified as a 'Quadricycle', which the Supreme Court refused to on the back of safety concerns and petitions filed by the Automotive Engineers Association and the Auto-rickshaw Drivers Association. Since then, Bajaj has been constantly trying to get the policy changed, which essentially means the policy is being pushed to change for one company that is trying to sell a product for a purpose it was never originally conceived for. However, is the Qute really a good vehicle for our roads?

Safety and Policy Concerns

At the Nasscom event, Bajaj also said that “This is the only country that has not given us permission to sell this vehicle. Because, for some reason, it thinks if four-wheeler is worse, let people continue on three-wheeler”, making a point that the Qute is being sold already in countries across Asia, Europe and South America.

While Bajaj was right in pointing out that the Qute is being sold in other countries, one must consider that India is now rapidly upping its pace in terms of improving its safety and emission regulations. Amid such a progress rate, out focus should be on making leaps of progress. The Qute is claimed to be a better solution than autorickshaws as it's safer and efficient and is more comfortable and also has four doors. While the Qute might certainly be safer than an auto rickshaw and a good option for last mile connectivity, it isn't exactly a safe vehicle. In April, 2016, the Qute received a dismal 1-star crash rating from Euro NCAP. Bajaj, however, rejoiced this rating and stated that the result is better than the zero star rating of some Indian cars such as the Volkswagen Polo, Ford Figo, Maruti Suzuki Alto, Hyundai i10 and Tata Nano. What wasn't told was that quadricycles and cars are tested on different parameters and hence cannot be compared.

Euro NCAP too criticised quadricycles in an official statement “It is disappointing to see that quadricycles are still lacking the basic safety features that are common in small cars,” said Michiel van Ratingen, secretary general of the Euro NCAP.

Watch the Video fo the Bajaj Qute

That said, the claims about the Qute's fuel-efficiency and low emissions cannot be challenged as it weighs under 500 kg and is powered by a 200 cc engine that also powers the Pulsar motorcycles in a different state of tune. With a top speed of 70 km/h, the Qute definitely cannot be taken onto the highways so it cannot be sold as a personal transportation vehicle since we still aren't a country rich enough where people can afford a cheap and small quadricycle for urban usage and a car for roads that do not permit quadricycles. That means the Qute would primarily be limited to replacing the auto rickshaws, which Bajaj too manufactures.

Carmakers and auto rickshaw companies such as TVS have been against the idea of quadricycles as they believe it will add to the population of unsafe vehicles on already dangerous Indian roads. Bajaj, on the other hand, believes that the Qute is a better and efficient vehicle for urban transportation and that the petition filed by the auto rickshaw union against the Qute is driven by some competitors.

Whatever the real case is, one thing is clear that the journey of Qute in India hasn't been anywhere close to the qualities associated with its name. It also shows how the Indian automotive industry is divided on a crucial issue such as environment and safety. It's hard for anyone to predict what the future holds for the Qute but one thing is clear that the Qute is only going to be a marginal safety increment over the three-wheelers that ply on our roads. Similar to the BSIV to BSVI progression, we need larger progresses across our mobility solutions and electric/ hybrid vehicles of small capacity seem to be a better answer to the traffic congestion and pollution problems we're facing right now.

Also read: Bajaj Pulsar most preferred motorcycle in India, Honda Activa takes top spot in scooters

Safety issues too need to be addressed urgently as India ranks at the top of traffic fatalities in the world. The Qute hence cannot be a solution to that on its own. What needs to change first is the attitude of people on roads and their fundamental understanding of traffic rules.

Maybe the Qute isn't the right idea for our roads and Rajiv Bajaj himself said that “If the solution or the idea is right, it will go like a hot knife through butter. If the idea is not working, for example, demonetisation, don’t blame execution. I think your idea itself is wrong.” Irrespective of the demonetisation's success/ failure, probably the Qute isn't a hot knife exactly to cut through the frozen butter of our policies!

  1. G
    gajendra
    Aug 21, 2017 at 1:56 pm
    He has a point
    Reply
    1. N
      Narasimha
      Jul 31, 2017 at 10:29 am
      Such a bad design and the name doesn't sound cute. Nano has a very cute design. It can replace auto rickshaw for sure. Certainly not a passenger car. Bring some electrical cars. It is the way forward.
      Reply
      1. K
        Ketan Kadu
        May 8, 2017 at 7:21 pm
        Even Apple did not got relaction in the norms even though it was bringing FDI to bharat then why should you. If you are getting in to new venture then then you should accepts the norms and condition after all you are not the only company in the quadricycle business there are others also which are producing and sel already. Regarding Made In India, We Bhartiya produce lot of it also can be called Made in India so no body is sel that. If you expect that people will buy the from then may be you are expecting wrong. Your words seems to be politically motivated and not the word of the Entrepreneur or a Businessman .
        Reply
        1. A
          abhishek soni
          Apr 21, 2017 at 11:05 pm
          In short, he wants the government to change an entire policy of the world's largest democracy, so that he can dump this cheap and third cl ugly ogre on Indian people. I think he shouldn't bother because even rickshaw pullers have an eye for beauty and they are surely not going to buy this junk. Just imagine, if Renault, a company who is okay with producing not-so-pretty cars like Verito and Lodgy, just disowned this teratogenic mistake after looking at the end result, even ignoring all the money they invested, why would someone buy it for his hard earned money?
          Reply
          1. A
            abhishek soni
            Apr 21, 2017 at 11:12 pm
            I meant pulse not verito.
            Reply
            1. ashish paralkar
              Jun 26, 2017 at 5:44 pm
              True, I havent seen a more ugly POS vehicle than this, and dont want it on the roads!
            2. G
              gajendra
              Aug 21, 2017 at 1:59 pm
              Government can only decide upon safety and environment not looks or profit. ppl decide.
              Reply
            3. A
              Abhay
              Feb 20, 2017 at 5:21 am
              For many years, Bajaj has thrust substandard products on Indian consumers taking advantage of licence & permit raj. They are still doing the same in the form of autorikshaw. They are again at it with Qute.
              Reply
              1. R
                Raghavan
                Feb 17, 2017 at 11:38 am
                Appears close Friend of RG
                Reply
                1. V
                  vikash Kumar
                  Feb 19, 2017 at 4:36 am
                  Everyone has right to express their views. As far as demonetisation is concerned only after July 17 its failure or success can be put on the Board. We all know, corruption is everywhere but we don't want to stop it, as it is very usual to be corrupt.
                  Reply
                  1. S
                    Salim Khan
                    Feb 17, 2017 at 3:34 pm
                    Let people decide if thet want it or not !
                    Reply
                    1. R
                      Reeto
                      May 22, 2017 at 1:42 pm
                      Yes your comment makes good sense. It's definitely better than an Auto-rickshaw
                      Reply
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