Bajaj and the fuss about quadricycles



There are a lot of things that are admirable about Bajaj Auto Ltd, one of India’s most advanced two wheeler manufacturers. From its catchy “hamara bajaj” tagline that tugs at your heart, to its proud Indian roots, its blunt and bold CEO in Rajiv Bajaj who is not averse to stoke controversies, to its Pulsars, Bajaj is a company that is aggressive and restless. Both are exemplary qualities.

Its latest attempt at making a quadricycle however, is anything but admirable. And I am not talking about the product here as nobody has driven it and hence nobody has the right to say anything on it. What irks me however is the way the company has hijacked the issue of formulating rules for quadricycles as a special segment of vehicles.

The genesis of Bajaj’s version of a quadricycle–the RE60– is as muddled as the product itself. Initially, the Pune based firm wanted to make a low cost car using its expertise as a proficient two and three wheeler manufacturer. Those were the days when Tata was finalising the Nano and the world was hopeful about the prospect of frugal functional four wheelers.

That is what lured the Franco-Japanese alliance of Renault Nissan to tie up with Bajaj promising to bear the cost of sales and marketing. On paper, it looked like a win-win situation. Since the Nano was made here, it was logical that a similar car can emanate from India alone. Nobody would have thought Bajaj, a rank outsider to making cars, can do what so many including Suzuki, Hyundai and General Motors had flatly refused to. Yet, Renault-Nissan’s association raised hopes that this was something more serious than what it looked like.

The fact that it was not, became clear eventually. Bajaj first showcased a concept version that was nothing more than a skeleton. A poor copy from various small cars already on the road, the company did not let anybody get near the car for fear of somebody clicking pictures of the engine and reverse engineering it. In reality, it never had an engine.

Then the project started getting delayed and a shadow war commenced between Rajiv Bajaj and Renault Nissan Chairman Carlos Ghosn over its pricing. While Ghosn wanted a car at $ 2500, Bajaj often refused to play ball reiterating that he was looking at fuel economy and not price while making this car. That continued for several years and finally it was clear that the partnership was all but over.

Bajaj eventually showed what it actually designed and developed, last year in January. What we saw then was a joke in the name of a car. The company itself admitted it wasn’t really one but a four wheeler intended to replace the 5 million odd three wheelers on the road. Clearly, the attempt to make a car had come a cropper and what remained was an afterthought now being pushed as a revolutionary modern day quadricycle.

There is a tinge of irony when Bajaj goes about lobbying for its labour of love to be treated not like a car but as a quadricycle. A decade ago, when another Indian two wheeler maker TVS wanted to make quadricycles, Bajaj was one of its foremost opponents.

As the debate raged, the car companies were pissed. They wanted for RE60 to either meet all the legislations of a car including safety and fuel efficiency norms or not be sold as a private vehicle at all. Bajaj on its part has been going all out trying to convince anybody willing to listen that this vehicle is an innovative masterpiece. IIT professors have written papers on how safe and environment friendly this vehicle would be while sundry experts are gushing about the functionality of the vehicle. I doubt if any of them have actually driven the vehicle.

The problem is not to make a path breaking vehicle and then lobby hard to get rules formulated to assimilate it. The issue is when one tries to hijack a subject just to make a particular vehicle digestible. Agreed that four wheels is safer than three and that is exactly what Bajaj intends to do with the RE60 – prompt three wheeler owners to upgrade to a safer and more modern four wheeler.

In that case then, it should not resent if the government does not allow it to sell to individual consumers. After all, no individual today would buy a three wheeler as a personal mode of transportation. And at the same time, it would do Bajaj’s image a whole lot of good if it proactively decides to stop making three wheelers itself. As it stands, Bajaj is the largest three wheeler manufacturer in the world and its three wheels bring more profits than two. I am not sure, the company would do that.

It is also ironical, that this discussion is happening at such a late stage. Ideally, should someone aspire to make a vehicle a definition for which is not available, it should lobby to get the rules framed first before investing crores and making the vehicle. Sadly, it has happened the other way round. As a result, all efforts are now being made to ensure that at least the RE60 cuts the ice as far as a quadricycle is concerned. No benchmarks are being looked at, no other markets studied, no clarifications sought.

To define a new segment only to cater to one product itself makes this whole exercise meaningless. But since you and I won’t even get to drive it, why should we care.

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  • Abu Ahmed

    All the stars mentioned abve have taken to the tv screens when they had either gone past their shelf lives or are about to go down-hill. KBC caught people’s imagination because it hit the screen at the right time – the pro-reform Indian on-the-rise economy wherein everybody dreamt of becoming a millionaire overnight. Star Plus launched the right product at the right time for the right people and with the right people – once-in-a-lifetime stroke of genius, one would say.

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  • Aman

    Totally agree with it. It has happened to me at number of occasions. The brand is losing out because of this kind of staff. May be they should hire MBA’s and pay them hefty salaries.

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  • Anonymous

    Great job on the site, it looks wonderful. I am going to bookmark it and will make sure to visit often

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  • http://www.forexsignalsafe.com Admin

    Fair treatment is essential and mandatory. BUT, reservation should be eradicated in India. My 2 cents :)

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  • Anonymous

    Reservation per se discourages excellence .However, to set right social imbalance ,it needs to be enforced but limited to a specified period.A well defined cut off date will effectively encourage the addressed communities to use the opportunity to the maximum.Perpetuating the reservation regime for ever will only encourage mediocrity

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    RajX Reply:

    DrBhaShyam, well put. The problem is certain groups have an interest in prolonging reservation and for them the immorality of reservation and the destruction it cause in society doesn’t matter.

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  • Anonymous

    Zia, my mate WHEN WILL YOU STOP SEEING TREE FOR THE WOODS.
    Now lets say THERE IS NO RESERVATION BASED ON CASTE OR RELIGION ., BUT BASED ON FAMILY INCOME.
    Please answer me, WHO WILL BE THE BENEFECIARIES,
    will it not be the SC/ST , OBC AND MUSLIMS.
    The preference will be given to the poorer of the poor.
    IT COMES TO SAME , ONLY NO LABELS , OR PERHAPS ONLY LABEL
    INDIAN, not a bad idea really.

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  • Anonymous

    So long as the Nehru dynasty is in power,reservations for any caste or religion,are provided for garnering votes and are hogged primarily by the fat cats of that segment of society and secondarily by the congress and babudom.Time has come for the weaker sections of society to refuse to be exploited by the govts that offer small doles and make big promises before the elections for looting the country.Marx,the real father of Marxism,had advised the working classes to rise against those who exploited them,saying ‘You have nothing but chains (Gulami ki berian) to lose’.Communists of West Bengal are the agents of trade and industry(the two corrupt classes).The bulk of their party cadres consisted of power-hungry criminals.A large number of them were inducted into various departments of the govt.Personaly, I won’t be surprised,if an honest probe holds them responsible for some of the heinous crimes,including the death(killing?) of infants for destabilising the govt.There is a saying in Chinese:’Don’t give me fish,teach me how to catch fish”.The real well-wishers of deprived classes must put pressure on the govts to provide free educational facilities for the first two children of parents of this class in the schools where the children of babus and netas generally study.It must be ensured that Jagjivan Rams,Paswans and Jogis (the fat cats of these castes and the corrupt favourites of the powerful families)don’t hog the reserved seats.It should also ensured that the students of these classes are not discriminated against.And this can be ensured by honest govts.Therefore,the voters of deprived and underprivilleged classes must vote only for honest candidates.This time Anna hazare could guide you in this matter.The supporters will certainly be the agents of the corrupt.

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  • indian

    It should strictly be based on income. Otherwise there are going to be internal wars as we have seen like gujjar agitation, jat agitation. People will realise this one day how congress is doing the harm by using divide and rule policy.

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  • indian

    It should strictly be based on income. Otherwise there are going to be internal wars as we have seen like gujjar agitation, jat agitation. People will realise this one day how congress is doing the harm by using divide and rule policy.

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  • Sumit Bose

    Helloooo, is or isn’t India a secular country?
    If we are indeed a secular country then we must not have any reservations based on anyone’s religion. We must also not have the Prophet’s birthday as a national holiday, alongside our Independence day and Republic day. We must cease being pseudo-secular. That is the only way to give a sound stability on the bedrock of individual merit. My query to this muslim and the pseudo-secularists is why cannot they give a direction to the country for merit to be the sole criteria for personal or social advancement. In areas that were seceded to Pakistan, the people of this muslim’s community drove out almost all Hindus and Sikhs, and instead of the muslims of India, who voted whole-heartedly for the Muslim League in the 1946 , who after coming into power, resorted to “direct action” of brutal aggression on Hindus, stayed on in India. These muslims who stayed on in India, faced no official harassment or social terror. They live and are viewed equally by the official machinery and the judiciary, something that is to speak voloumes of the “large-heartedness” of the Indians. Mr muslim, please dont spit on the plate you have been feeding yourself.

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  • anil

    I think some politicians in politics will fall sick if they don’t take minority tablets every now and then.
    Are you one of their kind?

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  • Anonymous

    It seems totally naive and wrong for this blogger to conclude majority of the people of the nation ”cannot bear the sight of even crumbs being given to minorities!” On the contrary, the writer should have emphasised the well-known fact that even after almost 65 years of independence, the minority still refuses to become part of the majority without realising the broad range of benefits that will accrue to them!

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  • http://twitter.com/shreyasdesai Shreyas

    Instead of focusing on rightwing, why don’t u ask real questions? Why rulers of India for 600 years require affirmative action? Why is it that muslims breed at twice the national rate, do poorly in women education and empowerment and education?

    Probably you can take guy out of muslims but can’t get muslim out of a guy like you.

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    RajX Reply:

    For people like Zia, it is easy to take the tax payers money based n religion. To fix social issues you are talking about, it requires a lot of hard work and social reforms. There are very few social reformers in the Islamic community unlike other religious groups in India. You won’t find any dayananda saraswati in that community.

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  • Anonymous

    They call you Muslim because you don’t want to erases your identity as a Muslim. Greatest tragedy of Muslim community of India they think themselves orphan.Living ghetto not to mix up in national circle, not participated in business ,education, never think to be competitive with, Hindu in every field.Don’t want forget their historical past. Till obey Maula and Moulvi.When they break the out of dated old norms and came forward with new norms which are appropriate with new era till people called them Muslim.

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  • RajX

    Every Indian is a minority in some way or the other. I doubt if SRK’s kids need help from the government through reservation but the “high” caste Kashmiri pandits in refugee camps in Delhi who were driven away from their lands by Muslims will definitely need government help. But the in sad and pathetic India, the Muslims who drove the “high” caste Hindus out of Kashmir and stole their property will get reservation while the poor “high” caste Kashmiri pandits will be left to rot in refugee camps with no support even though he has lost everything because he was loyal to India. Our country is full of injustices where villains are turned into heros and victims are turned into oppressors, up is down and down is up.kalyug where communal groups rule the roost and have their people like Zia firmly in place in the Indian main stream media. We need a revolution.

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  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_5LKDVIAY6R5XC3TZH3EJ5DGQUM R

    who do you think will benefit from this? only the creAMy layer

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  • Anonymous

    Why not people called Kalam or M.J. Akaber Muslim?Simple answer both mingle in main social circle.Majority accepted both of them useful to nation.Why not other Muslim follow both of them?

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  • Abu Ahmed

    U.P. elections have become fertile playground for a thousand mutinies after 1992 – all the major parties are seducing voters with whatever it takes to have their vote. There will always be those who will oppose any scheme designed to benefit any community’s backwards – as the cake is of a definitie size while its claimants are infinite. Whatever – Mukhtar Naqvi of the BJP should be arrested for threatening of a civil war – opposing a political scheme with another political one is the name of the game, not the threat of violence as that amounts to terrorism – hence Naqvi and his colleagues should be arrested for threatening a civil war and trying to terrorise people. Why can’t the BJP come up with a better offer to entice voters instead of issuing threats?

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  • RajX

    Hahaha…here you go again. Funny guy.

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  • RajX

    You meant to say that Muslims in nonmuslim majority nation want secularism? The answer to that is easy. Because they can’t have sharia in nonmuslim majority countries. The majority won’t tolerate primitive Arab practices in their countries.

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  • RajX

    Smart approach. Both congress and BJP are crooks.

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  • Azhar Hussain

    Your Hindus are living happily in Mid east Muslim countries, and most of your fellow country would love to go there. what BS are you talking about.

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    RajX Reply:

    Take the oil away from the middleast and they got nothing we want. They are just a bunch of not so civilized societies.

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  • RajX

    I have discovered a donkey…you.

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  • engrich

    yes and feel proud.

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  • engrich

    forceful making was hindu samaj was the first major terrorist act in india.there was no forceful conversion.

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  • Abhishek

    The Nano looks more like a logical extension of the Bajaj Auto rickshaw. The Tatas just took a lot of inspiration from Bajaj and added doors and air-conditioning.
    They also ‘created’ a new 700 cc engine by cutting the Indica’s 1.4 liter motor in half – OK that was the most difficult part.
    Bajaj doesn’t realize that the entire rationale behind an auto rickshaw not having doors is because it lacks air-conditioning. Imagine a person stuck in Delhi jam in 46 degrees heat in RE – which unfortunately is ’safer’ but will turn into a gas chamber in summers.
    This is just a ‘jugaad vehicle’ – a desperate attempt by Bajaj to save face.

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  • Subrata Guharoy

    Any effort by Bajaj can be appreciated only if they recall all the autorickshaws that they have sold in the market, in exchange for the RE60. They are the most polluting vehicles that we find on the roads.

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