Ever sat in a new-age taxi? Of course, you've. In this age of Olas and Ubers, you most certainly would have. A taxi ride yesterday helped open my eyes on the tacts we have in India. My car was a shiny one with the seat plastic still on. No, my driver wasn't an eccentric bawa. The car was running on temporary plates and that too white ones. Sat in, congratulated the driver on the new ride and then blurted out the address that I wanted to go to. It struck me that not only was the car new but it was the second to top model. The driver, wanted a higher variant of an existing taxi model. However, as you might be aware, most car manufacturers like Hyundai, Maruti, Tata and so on, sell their base models as taxis. Simple funda. The cars have AC, power window and similar space to the top variants. Less investment and more money in the driver's pocket. Works, eh!
The driver wanted a model with more features and hence settled for this one. On being asked how he will register this car given that it certainly isn't the taxi version that is earmarked for him as well as many other fleet operators. The response was not as interesting as I thought it will be. He just blurted, "jugaad". The quintessential word that we Indians are so synonymous with. He was kind enough to elaborate or perhaps I was too persistent.
He said that he has to get this car registered at Haryana as a taxi, though he stays in Delhi. Every state has a different rule when it comes to taxi registrations. This top variant cannot be registered as a taxi in New Delhi but in Haryana, it was possible. This guy was a fleet owner and he has got multiple vehicles from many a manufacturer registered as a taxi in this fashion, from Haryana. He says that the vehicle health certificate for a new car is made after two years. At that point of time, more often than not, the checking mechanism from Haryana only captures a photo of the car and its chassis. Moreover, the speed governer isn't an issue either there, according to him. The Haryana registering authority doesn't check it as stringently as the ones at Delhi. This means that my cab could be driven at a much higher speed than others from its ilk. Care for a taxi drag race, anyone?
Regarding speed governors, there is an interesting theory. Imagine buying a very popular Rs 18 lakh taxi (multi-purpose vehicle). The company, it is claimed, doesn't install a speed governor in this car though its sedan gets it. Instead the throttle response is dulled a bit. These vehicles can technically do 100-120kmph easily. After all, more often than not, these MPVs are used for inter-state travel and sitting at 80kmph on the open highway isn't really going to go down well with the customer, who might be in a hurry. To be fair to my driver, he was right. I myself had a few trips in this model and on more than one occassion found the driver driving at 100kmph.
On further probing, my driver said that one of India's highest selling sedans (that also has a taxi version) was something he considered buying. However, the manufacturer as well as dealers weren't as co-operative and insisted that he buy the taxi version instead. My driver took to great pains to explain that were he to get a private new car from this auto maker, he will have had to go to Mewad, Rajasthan to get it registered as a taxi. He will still be issued a Haryana number plate though. Apparently, private unregistered cars from this particular manufacturer, that have to ply in Delhi-NCR, can only be registered as a taxi in Mewad. What about the warranty, I ask him. He says that the warranty isn't affected. Most service stations that take care of fleet cabs turn a blind eye to many a modifications. Sometimes, they also know that the vehicle odometer has been rolled back (Rs 300 exercise) to ensure that the service limits are met.
I did check with a few manufacturers on this. The manufacturers, as expected, said that they don't support these kind of practices. If it comes in the know, the vehicle warranty will be void. An executive, on the condition of anonymity, told me that there are many ways in which people register their taxi. The procedure depends on what purpose the car is used for - hotel, radio cab or for airport runs. One being told of the aforementioned method, the executive paused to say that it is definitely possible in a country like ours. Another manufacturer told me that the speed governor rule was added to the CMVR but then it doesn't have a uniform call on all the states. Few RTOs are a bit relaxed on these norms while others take up cudgels. Moreover, the MPV maker confirmed that they indeed sell vehicles with speed limiting function. This is directly attached with the ECU and hence tampering with it is difficult. However, buyers do buy these cars without the speed limiter and install aftermarket tamperable units. It seems, I perhaps took a ride in one of the latter vehicles.
Have you come across any such jugaads? If yes, do let us know.
PS: My cab driver wanted a vehicle with more features and hence had to adopt this route. Perhaps, four-wheeler manufacturers can think of this aspect while making cab versions.