Bajaj Auto Ltd (BAL), which was selling the Bharat Stage (BS)-IV compliant Qute quadricycle in select cities in the domestic market until March 2020, will be coming up with a version complying with the BS-VI emission norms in the medium term.
Bajaj Auto Executive Director Rakesh Sharma confirmed that the quadricycle, which is currently under the ‘business development’ phase, will see a commercial roll-out, once it is homologated by the Automotive Research Association of India (ARAI) next year. He also confirmed that there will be an electrically propelled Qute as well. "That will be be available in the medium to long term, he said.
It may be recalled that Bajaj Qute, initially named RE60, is a rear-engine, rear-wheel drive, four-passenger quadricycle built by BAL, aimed primarily at the domestic market.
Company MD Rajiv Bajaj had stated that the quadricycle was launched some years ago, with the long-term objective of getting autorickshaw drivers to graduate to this four-wheeled option.
Meanwhile, the Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers (SIAM) data claims that the number of passenger three-wheeler sales in the domestic market have moved upwards -- from 135,414 units in FY2021 to 183,607 units in FY2022.
Quadricycle business faced delays
“The quadricycle business had to take a bit of a backseat in the last 18 months or so because of the changeover from BS-IV to BS-VI emission norms. The changeover was a very large exercise and we prioritised our existing mainlines (motorcycles, three-wheelers) more than the new (product) lines. As a result, we had to complete that programme. So, to that extent, the business development of quadracycle 2 is only commencing now,” Sharma said, while replying to a question by Moneycontrol during the post-Q1FY23 earnings media briefing.
It may be recalled that the BS-IV version of Qute’s commercial roll-out was delayed as it was unable to meet the safety norms applicable to a car. Finally, in 2018, the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways (MoRTH) legally classified quadricycle as a new vehicle category, thus allowing Bajaj Auto to sell Qute in the domestic market as a ‘commercial vehicle’.
When asked further about the timeline for the BS-VI compliant Qute, he said: “As we speak, this is the first quarter (of financial year 2022-23). We are in the process of securing ARAI approvals for the new (emission) standards. Having concluded all the BS-VI programmes and further requirements in terms of Onboard Diagnostics (OBD) 1, 2 etc., we are now taking up Qute (for testing). After the certification of Qute for BS6, the market development work will recommence.”
At present, BAL is exporting the BS-IV version of Qute to 15 countries as per their respective emission norms.
Electric version of Qute
When Moneycontrol asked about the electric version, he confirmed: “Our intention is to also electrify Qute but that can happen after the two- and three-wheelers have been done. However, I cannot comment on the timeline as Qute electrification will be taken up after the 3W range and after demand assessment.”
It was reported earlier that BAL plans to leverage on the budget shared-mobility segment in order to drive up volumes for the Qute.
Sharma had earlier told Moneycontrol: “Ride share aggregators are a good platform to take the Qute proposition to the masses. In the limited period we had before BS-VI, we collaborated successfully with Uber for a pilot in Bengaluru and used the feedback from 1 lakh customers. Post the relaxation of COVID-19 restrictions and readiness of the product in October-November (2021), this partnership will be picked up again in Bengaluru and rolled out in other metros like Hyderabad. We expect sales of the Qute to commence in Q4 of this fiscal.”
While the Qute enjoys a monopoly in the Indian auto landscape, it is likely to be challenged by Mahindra & Mahindra’s maiden quadricycle Atom, which underwent homologation early this year and is slated for a roll-out this financial year. M&M spokesperson, when contacted by Moneycontrol, maintained that the company is unable to share any details as it is currently in the silent period.
‘Bajaj Qute will be a real disruption’
Avik Chattopadhyay, a brand expert and who had stints with Maruti and VW states: “As a concept, a quadricycle is the perfect transition from a two-wheeler to a four-wheeler. It has been a popular mode of transport in Europe, especially in countries like France, with many automakers in this segment. It's the perfect intra-city, low-speed runabout providing the ideal benefit mix of compact size, low taxes, low price and economical operation.”He also said: “The real disruption will happen with the electric Bajaj Qute, and later, Mahindra Atom. It will be the true entry-level electric four-wheeler that India needs for better adoption of electric mobility. It shall come at a price point unmatched by any entry-level car, albeit in a low-speed, low-range avatar. Moving within a town at a peak of 50 kmph for only 125 km per charge will do very well for 80 percent of India. That is where the electric Qute will win and make the situation acute for others!”