COVID-19 impact | Bajaj's all-electric scooter Chetak riding slow amid lockdown woes

By Swaraj Baggonkar

The Chetak was received with such a rapturous response that Bajaj had to shut down the bookings

The nation-wide lockdown has pushed back scheduled market expansion of Bajaj Auto’s first all-electric, celebrated two-wheeler Chetak by a few months, a top company official told Moneycontrol.

Commercially launched in January this year, the electric Chetak went on sale only in Pune and Bengaluru. The company later had shut down bookings of the two-wheeler.

Interruption in supply of components from China coupled with the process of getting product experience feedback from customers are some of the reasons why Chetak’s entry into other Indian cities could get delayed by 4-5 months.

While production of other Bajaj products has resumed after partial easing of lockdown restrictions Chetak is yet to restart rolling out from the Pune factory.

Speaking to Moneycontrol Rakesh Sharma, executive director, Bajaj Auto said, “We had some components coming from China, from Wuhan actually which got interrupted. We had a very good order book and eventually we had to freeze the order book because when the supplies started getting interrupted we felt that we cannot keep going to our customers and keep apologising. So we declined to take more orders.”

The company declined to state the number of orders it received for the Chetak but said that the priority is to fulfill the pending customer orders first before opening sales in more cities.

“Going forward we will continue to focus on Pune and Bengaluru for some time and then review the expansion to some other key cities in due course. That process of advancement of sales has got delayed. When things open up we will first try to accomplish what we had set to do in the first two cities,” added Sharma.

“First we wanted to service demand and secondly we wanted to see how the product is received, how the ecosystem of charging is responding, how the subsidy thing is working out, we wanted to see if any modification was required by the consumers. So we had a set of objectives that we had to accomplish first. We are at a loss of 4-5 months depending on when the lockdown reopens,” added Sharma.

Besides the domestic market Bajaj has committed to export the Chetak to European markets helped by its partner KTM for sales and distribution. This plan too has got delayed.

Priced at Rs 1,00,000 (ex-showroom) the Bajaj Chetak is one of the most expensive electric two-wheelers available in India and much higher than the most affordable Pulsar, the most popular bike brand by Bajaj priced at Rs 70,000.

Chetak is the first of many electric models planned by Bajaj Auto, including those in partnership with KTM. Deliveries of the Chetak with six colour and two variants commenced from February-end. Around 13 dealerships in Bengaluru and four dealerships in Pune were earmarked for retailing the Chetak.

Designed on the lines of the original Chetak, the popular geared scooter of the 1960s and 70s, the battery-powered scooter has been designed and developed in-house by Bajaj Auto.

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