Bajaj to launch four-wheel vehicle but it's not a car

Feb 24 2014, 11:04 IST
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Bajaj to launch four-wheel vehicle but it's not a car. (Reuters) Bajaj to launch four-wheel vehicle but it's not a car. (Reuters)
SummaryA 110-year-old woman believed to be the oldest survivor of the Holocaust.

It's got four wheels and seatbelts, but Bajaj Auto, the creator of India's first quadricycle, would rather you didn't call it a car.

Bajaj Auto is marketing the RE60 as a more stable and comfortable alternative to the three-wheeled autorickshaws ubiquitous on India's roads even though it looks like a small hatchback car and is expected to cost less.

Weight, top speed and other specifications, including safety standards, mean the RE60 will not be classified as a car. But that didn't stop executives from India's top automakers such as Tata Motors from comparing it to a car and finding its safety features come up short.

Rajiv Bajaj, the company's managing director, insists the RE60 is neither a car nor an autorickshaw. The government is even creating a new classification category for the vehicle, which is expected to be launched within months.

"In every market that a three-wheeler is available the quadricycle should be relevant," Bajaj told Reuters in a phone interview.

"Because at the end of the day it provides a very logical upgrade from a three-wheeler for people who want to pay a little more and want to have the comfort and safety of four wheels, four doors, a roof and seatbelts," he said.

In India, autorickshaws typically have no doors and a soft roof. The vehicles are usually turned into taxis and known in many countries as tuk-tuks.

The RE60 is part of a long-term expansion strategy by Bajaj to boost sales growth at home and abroad.

The company is the world's largest autorickshaw maker and India's second largest motorcycle maker, and sales of both these vehicles have decelerated over the last two years, hit by falling demand in a slowing Indian economy.

Bajaj's three-wheeler sales fell 6 percent in the 2012/13 financial year compared to a 17 percent increase in the previous year and a 28 percent rise in 2010/11.

Motorcycle sales also showed a similar trend: they fell 2 percent in 2012/13 compared to a 13.2 percent gain in 2011/12 and a 35 percent increase a year earlier.

Exports of motorbikes and autorickshaws account for more than a third of Bajaj's sales. The company counts Mahindra and Mahindra Ltd, TVS Motor Company Ltd and Italy's Piaggio as competitors in the three-wheeler segment.

SAFER, BUT NOT CHEAPER

The RE60 weighs 400 kilograms (880 pounds), about 100 kg more than Bajaj's smallest autorickshaw and half as much as a small hatchback. The engine, which can run on gasoline or compressed natural

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