Quadricycles get govt green signal

Fifteen years after Tata Motors first mooted the idea with its micro car ‘Zing’ at the Delhi Auto Show, quadricycles are set to become a reality for the domestic automobile industry. The government on Wednesday allowed these four-wheeled vehicles to ply within city limits as modes of public transport.

But, it’s not Tata that is rolling out the first set of quadricycles for the Indian market. In fact, Tata Motors MD Karl Slym had last month termed the introduction of quadricycles as a regressive step for the industry. Bajaj Auto, with its RE60 quadricycles, plans to replace three-wheelers on the Indian roads. Its MD, Rajiv Bajaj, said: “We’re delighted; we are likely to be the first mover (in the segment).” Tata Motors declined to comment.

A senior road ministry official said: “The quadricycles are a significant upgrade over three-wheelers, which are used for commuting in most cities. Quadricycles have fully enclosed body structure — undoubtedly a much safer alternative.”

However, to address the concerns of major auto makers over safety and emission norms for these as personal vehicles, the ministry has suggested that quadricycles be registered under the commercial transport category for intra-city movement. Also, to distinguish these from cars, the ‘Q’ symbol needs to be displayed on the body of these vehicles.

Maruti Suzuki chairman R C Bhargava said: “It is a good policy. There were safety concerns about the use of quadricycles for personal mobility. But, with the government permitting these for use as commercial vehicles within city limits, it will provide people commuting via three-wheelers an improved alternative.”

Earlier, Maruti had reservations over the government allowing quadricycles.

The norms notified under the three-wheeler category (L5) under the Central Motor Vehicle Rules (CMVR) or the European Union Quadricycle regulations - whichever is more stringent - would be adopted for this new segment of vehicles. In future, the revised norms for this category, as notified by the European Union for quadricycles, would be made applicable with a lag of six months. The final regulations would be notified within three months.

The decision has come after months of debate and dissent within the domestic auto industry over the use of quadricycles in India. Tata Motors Managing Director Karl Slym had tweeted on May 25: "The government and industry have been accelerating efforts in traffic safety and environment, now we consider a quadricycle. Why go backwards?"

A day later, Slym had added: "The number of wheels does not automatically make us better, it is adherence to tried and tested safety and emission norms."

Rajiv Bajaj had refuted critics, saying his primary attempt was to replace the less safe three-wheelers, which were more polluting and posed a significant safety risk, being less stable at higher speeds. Today, he said: "I expect both three- and four-wheelers would co-exist. We will shortly unveil a new range of three-wheelers - greener, more fuel-efficient, more powerful, more comfortable, more reliable - to enhance our global leadership in this category. Bajaj Auto is also looking at exporting the product in markets like Sri Lanka, Africa, Nigeria, Bangladesh and Egypt. It will start with a manufacturing capacity of 200 RE 60s a day, or 5,000 units a month.

Venu Srinivasan, CMD of TVS Motor Company, Bajaj's rival in the three-wheeler space said: "I cannot comment on it till the the time I get to see it. We are not getting into the (quadricycle) segment; it is not our business. We have got very little to do with it. It is for the four-wheeler makers to decide if they want to get into the low-cost, high-polluting segment - if they think it will eat into their share of cars."