More than a decade after exiting the scooter segment, Bajaj Auto is re-entering the space with the launch of an electric scooter named after its once popular model Chetak, which will go on sale from January 2020. Rajiv Bajaj, managing director of Bajaj Auto, however, said the company would still rely on motorcycles for volumes and stay away from the mainstream scooters. “We had made a choice to focus on motorcycles. As far as volumes are concerned, we will stay with motorcycles only but will continue to create niche segments and one of those will be scooters,” Bajaj said on the sidelines of the unveiling of the Chetak e-scooter on Wednesday. The company unveiled its electric scooter under the ‘Hamara Kal’ tagline, similar to the ‘Hamara Bajaj’ slogan which was for the Chetak in 1980s. With the launch of e-scooter Chetak, Bajaj Auto has become the first internal combustion engine two-wheeler company to launch an all-electric two-wheeler in the country. Competitors Hero MotoCorp and TVS Motor Company are in the midst of developing electric two-wheelers.
The company said that the e-scooter will have a 95 km range in Eco mode and 85 km range in Sport mode. While the company did not announce the price, experts estimated the battery-powered scooter, designed and developed in-house by Bajaj Auto, to be priced at around `1 lakh. Chetak e-scooter will be sold through Bajaj’s probiking showrooms which currently sells the KTM range. The scooter will be first sold in Pune and Bengaluru, and on the basis customer response, the company will expand it to other cities. Rajiv Bajaj’s decision to foray into electric two-wheeler came as a break from the earlier stand when he had criticised the government’s push for conversion to such vehicles by 2025, calling the move impractical and an incomplete initiative. Acknowledging the disagreement with the government earlier, Bajaj said the company is constantly aligning itself with the government policies.
“Our belief is if we are not the first or at worst second in the market, we will lose the market forever. It is with this attitude that we have decided to move into the future of EVs with the Chetak,” Bajaj said. A household name in the 70s and 80s, the geared Bajaj Chetak was one of the highest selling internal combustion engine scooter for over 20 years before the company decided to stop selling it around 2006. The demand for Chetak, which was named after Maharana Pratap’s horse, at around mid 1980s was so high that it had a waiting list of around a year. Powered by a 150cc two-stroke engine, Chetak was a game-changing product and contributed majorly to the total sales of the company.
In 1977, Chetak had crossed sales of 1 lakh units in a year, and ten years later, sales crossed the 5-lakh mark. At around 1990 and post-liberalisation, the company had started selling around 1 lakh scooters per month. Overall, the company sold over 1.3 crore Chetaks in about 34 years of its existence. For India of the late 1980s, the Chetak was the first choice for mobility and in the absence of a formidable competition, Bajaj Auto had a near monopoly in two-wheelers.