Pune-based Bajaj Auto and Piaggio Vehicles Private Limited (PVPL), traditional rivals in the light passenger and goods carrying segments, are ramping up their presence in these categories. The two companies have been busy developing these new products over the past several months.
Bajaj Auto, India’s biggest three-wheeler manufacturer, is replacing its entire line-up of three-wheelers with a new and upgraded range. The company has three products in cargo three-wheelers and several variants of passenger three-wheelers.
The new range of passenger and cargo models, which will be launched later this year, will deliver better mileage and superior performance than the current range. The three-wheeler category remains one of the highest margin generators for Bajaj Auto.
On the other hand, Piaggio is not just looking at upgrading its three-wheelers. The Italian company is keen to exploit the mini four-wheeler cargo segment, dominated by Mumbai-based Tata Motors.
PVPL, the 100 per cent India subsidiary of the Italian company, has already launched a cargo four-wheeler with a payload capacity of half a tonne. The Ape Mini belongs to the range of Ape light commercial vehicles promoted by the company in the cargo and passenger segment.
Further, the company will launch a new one-tonne four-wheeler later this year. This product is aimed at further improving its position in the last-mile segment of cargo application, currently dominated by the Tata Ace. Piaggio already has the Ape Truk Plus, which has a payload of one tonne.
Ravi Chopra, chairman and managing director, PVPL, said, “We have made a product which is a half tonner four-wheeled cargo vehicle similar, for reference, to the Tata (Ace) Zip. That product will be in the market by January-February. We are developing a vehicle, which is a one tonner in the same category as the Mahindra Maxximo and Tata Ace, that vehicle will also be in the market in the coming months.”
According to data by the Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers, the three-wheeler segment posted a growth of 5 per cent during April-December 2012 selling 402,000 units.
Bajaj Auto remained the market leader in this segment with a share of 41 per cent, while Piaggio followed closely behind with a share of 34 per cent. Although Bajaj’s share in the passenger carrier is upbeat, its share in the cargo segment has dipped.
Manufacturers say that the reason behind the fall in demand for cargo three-wheeler is because a substantial chunk of buyers have moved to four-wheeled mini trucks of 2-tonne and up to 3.5 tonne segments, which are dominated by Tata Motors and Mahindra.
Ashok Leyland’s Dost and Tata Motors’ Ace have been seeing robust demand in this segment. Piaggio’s sales in this segment has plummeted to 2,175 units, a fall of 75 per cent during the same period as against 8,736 units sold in the corresponding period last year.
The company hopes to compensate this decline with new products and with a range of new engines, which it begins to make at its plant in Maharashtra. These new diesel engines will have a capacity of 1-1.2 litres.