In Karnataka, economy bikes just took a back seat. Literally. The state government has stepped on the gas by banning riding pillion on two-wheelers with engine capacity of less than 100 cc. The Karnataka High Court insisted the state government adhere to the Karnataka Motor Vehicles Act, 1989, which does not allow seats for any pillion riders in two-wheelers below 100 cc engine capacity. In the wake of the order, the Karnataka State Transport Department decided to ban the registration of sub-100 cc two-wheelers fitted with a seat for passengers. Karnataka’s ban on the sale of small-engine bikes with pillion can have a negative bearing on nearly half a dozen models of Hero MotoCorp, the country’s largest two-wheeler maker, impacting its Splendor, Splendor+, Passion, Passion Pro, HF Delux and HF Delux Eco models.
Again, the Chennai-based TVS Motor manufactures three models with sub-100 cc engines — the Scooty Pep (scooter), Sport (motorcycle) and XL 100 (moped). Since most two-wheeler makers in the country push units with 110 cc-plus engine capacity, it is left to Hero and TVS to cater to the budget segment, and also suffer in Karnataka’s new scheme of things. But Wednesday also saw a silver lining appear with the Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers (SIAM) deciding to write to the state government to revoke its decision as it is in contravention with the Central Motor Vehicle Rules (CMVR), 1989, officials said. According to a senior SIAM executive, the body will approach the state government to revoke the decision as it is contrary to the CMVR as Karnataka is one of the biggest markets in terms of two-wheeler sales.
According to the CMVR, all the vehicles are certified and tested by the central agencies before they hit the streets and any law formulated by the state governments cannot override that. Certain types of scooters, mopeds and motorcycles will be impacted,” explained the executive.
According to industry executives, the Karnataka government may also pass an amendment to the existing law in the winter session of the state assembly that may nullify the recent order. “Safety is very important. If there is a scientific rationale behind this move, then it may not be a bad idea since the affect on OEMs may not be very huge. There may be short-term destruction for two-wheeler makers, but it may not have a significant impact,” said Abdul Majeed, auto sector lead, PwC India. This is the latest challenge faced by the automobile industry after the sale of BS-III vehicles were suddenly banned by the Supreme Court, prompting automobile manufacturers to release inventory of BS-III vehicles with huge discounts within three days in March. “We don’t expect significant damage but will have some kind of an impact. Also, this kind of a decision creates some kind of uncertainty as other states may also follow suit. I am sure the Karnataka government will take down the law,” said another SIAM executive.