After a 15-year hiatus, Bajaj Auto is set to restart production at its oldest plant in Pune’s Akurdi. The plant will manufacture electric vehicles (EVs).
The Akurdi plant is Bajaj’s oldest plant and it used to manufacture geared scooters and three-wheelers. Production at the plant stopped 15 years ago when Bajaj exited the scooter market. Rajiv Bajaj, managing director of Bajaj Auto, said on Thursday that the company would invest `250 crore to manufacture half a million EVs from this plant by 2023.
Taking note of the disruption expected in the automotive market, Bajaj said the company has already set up a new 100% subsidiary with an authorised capital of `100 crore for its electric vehicle business. The new EV company was created as the business needed a new kind of talent, resources and greater focus.
Bajaj indicated that the company would follow a frugal strategy for its EV business by leveraging existing infrastructure and not invest heavily in facilities. The company would use the plant at Akurdi to manufacture electric vehicles and look at existing vendors in its supply chain. Similarly, the Probiking dealership network would be used to sell the electric scooters once production is ramped up and it enters new markets.
The company entered the electric vehicle business with the Chetak electric scooters launched in early 2020 but stopped bookings. The pandemic led supply chain disruptions and semiconductor shortages affected the production of Chetak scooters. The company re-opened bookings on April 13, 2020, but stopped bookings after 48 hours.
Bajaj had manufactured 1,000 units of the Chetak in FY21 and delivered 1,000 Chetaks in Q1FY22 and sold 800 units in July 2021. It is currently available in Pune, Bengaluru, Nagpur and will be launched in Chennai, Hyderabad, Aurangabad, Mysore and Mangalore soon. Plans are to go to 25 cities by the year-end. The company is looking at a run-rate of 1,000 units of the Chetak a month. Bajaj Auto can make 60,000 units of Chetak per annum.
Bajaj Auto is also working on electric three-wheelers, quadricycles and motorcycles for personal and commercial use. Bajaj has set up an EV laboratory in October 2020 to design and develop EV technologies. The EV lab capacity and capability is being augmented to meet all the emerging needs of creating EV products. Bajaj is also working with KTM on electric vehicles.