Piqued by the long wait for nod to its quadricycle, Bajaj Auto chief Rajiv Bajaj today said the “process just takes forever” in India and wondered whether the approval would come when his children join the business.
The company has decided to start exporting the vehicle Qute, earlier known as RE60, to 16 countries by the end of this month even as it awaits the Supreme Court verdict to introduce it in the domestic market.
“We had a hearing that was postponed now. Again it has been postponed to next month…So that is the problem, somebody finally has to give us approval. The process just takes forever. Maybe when our children are in the business we will get approval,” the Bajaj Auto managing director told reporters here.
Venting out his frustrations, he said: “In the meantime, the world will travel on four wheels and India will travel on three wheels, that’s how it is.”
The four-wheeler mini passenger vehicle would be launched as Bajaj ‘Qute’ in 16 markets in Latin America, Africa, Europe and Asia at a price of around USD 2,000.
Bajaj Auto had showcased the RE60 in 2012 as a mini four-wheeler powered by a 200-cc rear-mounted petrol engine for intra-city urban transport targeting three-wheeler customers.
Although, it was ready for launch, RE60 was mired in legal tangles which the company claimed was “created by vested interests” by filing multiple petitions in various high courts, questioning the government process in creation of this new category.
The central government moved the Supreme Court to get the multiple cases consolidated in the apex court.
Bajaj said the Qute, which has four wheels, doors and a roof with a proper steering wheel, is a better option than the existing three-wheelers.
“It is very obvious that three-wheeler should be upgraded to a four wheeler..It perplexes us, it foxes us, it bewilders us today that when we have actually developed a product, a first of its kind in the world…we still need to explain our case and get approval,” Bajaj said.
At the same time, some of the three-wheelers which are less safer than the Qute are allowed, he lamented.
On the company’s production plans for the new vehicle, he said its Aurangabad plant has a flexible capacity and can produce 500, 1,000 or 5,000 vehicles a month depending on demand.
“In Aurangabad we have total capacity of 55,000 units a month between our three-wheelers and this four-wheeler Qute,” Bajaj said.
As far as initial volumes, Bajaj said the company is first looking to get into triple digits from next month.
“We are are not in a rush. We don’t want to send out too many vehicles to 16 countries too soon…From 2016, we will scale up, so that is the road map for near future,” he said.