IN THE LIMELIGHT: BAJAJ RE60

In a week that saw several catchy launches at the Auto Expo in Delhi, one vehicle that hogged the limelight was the RE60 from Bajaj. Yes, the one that looks a lot like the Reva. So, in a country crazy about small cars, has some competition for the Nano finally arrived? Fat chance! The RE60 may be as big as the Nano and may also be priced similarly, but it is not something that you and I can park in our garages, calling it a car. Well, what is it then?

Not a car

Around the time the Nano was announced, Bajaj Auto joined hands with Renault, Nissan for a small car project. However, sometime last year, the company made it clear that it was going to be a vehicle on four-wheels, but not a car. Today, after the launch, the company still calls it only a ‘four-wheeler'. But despite not being a car, the RE60 is all set to zip Bajaj Auto into a new orbit. Here's how.

Being in the business of manufacturing bikes, autos and mini-trucks on three-wheels, an entry into the manufacture of cars would surely have been a logical step forward for the company. More so, considering the much talked about under penetrated nature of the market for cars in India and the vibrant rural demand. But with almost every carmaker making a beeline to capture the ‘small car customer', Bajaj Auto then would have been a tiny speck in a highly competitive and crowded market. The company has instead decided to build on its strength – the humble auto rickshaw, in which segment it has a 48 per cent market share in sales within India and about 85 per cent in exports. With one of the lowest carbon dioxide emissions, a mileage of about 35 km to a litre of petrol and LPG/CNG options, this RE60 is hence a next-generation auto for the next-generation customer.

First mover advantage

By being the first mover, the company is trying to capitalise on the slowly but steadily growing opportunity for safe, environment-friendly and fuel-efficient means of public transport as an alternative to a car. In fact, a 2010 report by KPMG on the ‘Evolving Dynamics of the Indian Automotive Industry' pointed out that with the growing urbanisation, the introduction of metros, Bus Rapid Transit Systems and increasing infrastructure constraints, integrated transport systems would become the need of the future. So vehicles like the RE60 could be used for last mile connectivity.

But for Bajaj Auto, it may be some years before their three-wheelers are replaced by the RE60s in India. In the meantime, it has found ready markets in Sri Lanka and some African countries where its autos are currently being used for personal transport.

Bajaj is also not the only company gearing for such a future. The structural shift to four-wheeled commercial passenger carriers from three-wheelers has already been predicted by the Tatas and Mahindras of the world. Vehicles such as the Ace Magic, the Winger and the Maxximo mini-van are nothing but steps in this direction.



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