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Bajaj: new car platform possible without Renault

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The passenger car platform Bajaj Auto is building for Renault-Nissan will have multiple uses and will be profitable in itself, Managing Director Rajiv Bajaj has said.The original equipment manufacturer (OEM) deal to make a small car that Renault-Nissan will sell under their brand name is a bonus, he says.     “We are developing a platform for the needs of Bajaj Auto. It can be used to make a new-generation three-wheeler, a van or a commercial vehicle. We are building the platform for our own needs. The same platform is being used to make the car. The Renault-Nissan deal is icing on the cake. We are very happy being an OEM to them and they will sell the car in India as well as globally under their own name. We have to show them the prototype and we are on track.” There have been fears that Bajaj, investing a huge but undisclosed amount to build the platform, may lose heavily if the project is delayed or does not get off the ground. It is developing a car for the European company that can run 30 km on a litre of fuel and is available commercially by 2012. Bajaj is also working on a three-wheeler which, it hopes, will replace the five million auto-rickshaws in the country. The new three-wheeler could be bigger, more comfortable, more secure and less polluting. Its engine will be substantially more fuel-efficient. It may be priced 15-20 per cent higher than the existing models, which cost Rs 1,10,000. Bajaj is also making a foray into the growing four-wheeler passenger van segment and may look at taking on Tata Ace. It is also looking to make a smaller commercial vehicle. Bajaj dismissed the plan of Honda Motorcycle & Scooter India (HMSI) to increase capacity to four million vehicles a year. HMSI had earlier gone slow on motorcycles, especially in the 100cc segment, as it did not want to get into a direct competition with its then partner, the Munjals of Hero Honda. “I don’t buy that argument. Nothing stopped them from competing with us, as we are the kings in the 150cc segment. They have products but we dominate this category,” Bajaj said. While Bajaj sells 95,000 motorcycles a month in the 125cc-250cc category, HMSI sells 47,000 a month.