Mulling quadricycle version for personal use, says Bajaj

Although the plan to introduce quadricycles for intra-city commute had got mired in a controversy, Bajaj Auto is game for a non-commercial version of the vehicle. Bajaj Auto Managing Director Rajiv Bajaj said, "A different format of the quadricycle is possible in the personal space because (the model) RE60 is in the commercial space; so, a personal format is possible."

A quadricycle is a four-seater, four-wheeled vehicle, proposed to be used for commercial application like a cab or an autorickshaw. While there is no thorough pricing indication given by Bajaj Auto, the vehicle could be positioned between a three-wheeler (Rs 1.5 lakh) and the Tata Nano (Rs 2 lakh).

Though the transport ministry gave its nod in 2013 under the 'new class of vehicle' category, a slew of public interest litigations (PILs) had stalled its launch. The ministry had ordered amendments in the central motor vehicles rules to accommodate the quadricycle.

Presently, Bajaj Auto, India's second largest two-wheeler manufacturer, is the only company to have developed the vehicle indigenously. The company had invested Rs 550 crore for the project.

Using a 216 cc petrol engine, the single-cylinder, 20-bhp Bajaj RE60 can deliver a mileage of 35kmpl. It is the only vehicle that meets the norms of a quadricycle set by the government.

A personal version of the RE60, with an affordable price tag, might position the vehicle as a family car. However, the government for the time being has disallowed using the quadricycle for any non-commercial purpose. However, Bajaj says a three-wheeler, which is widely used for commercial purposes, is registered as a personal vehicle, while a two-wheeler, which is bought mainly for personal use, is also used for commercial purposes.

"Some people in the industry and in government believe that while both two-wheelers and three-wheelers are safe for personal use and thereby approved, a four-wheeled quadricycle isn't. I'm struggling to find a compelling argument to place before them," Bajaj said.

In March this year, the Supreme Court transferred to itself several petitions related to the quadricycle while extending a stay imposed on the orders of numerous high courts, including those of Delhi, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh.

Petitioners, who had filed PILs in various courts, allege that the quadricycle would be unsafe for Indian roads. They said this segment would pose a threat to three-wheeler operators, who will have to upgrade their driving licences to the next level.

Besides Bajaj Auto, Mumbai-based Mahindra & Mahindra and Italian auto maker Piaggio are also watching the space closely. A case is pending in the Supreme Court in this regard.