Renault-Bajaj small car not till 2012


The small car project being put through by Bajaj Auto with Renault-Nissan is unlikely to hit the roads next year as was originally expected.

Marc Nassif, managing director, Renault India, said, “The ULC (Ultra Low Cost project) is not among the five cars we have scheduled for launch in the Indian market by the end of 2012. We have not seen the prototype yet; we can only decide on marketing the vehicle only after seeing the product.”

The project’s commercial launch date has been delayed once and was expected to be off the ground by the end of 2012.

“Renault’s vision is to bring sustainable mobility to customers at affordable costs. We are looking at several options in doing that, apart from the collaboration with Bajaj,” said Philippe Klein, executive vice-president (product, planning and programs), Renault SA.

Renault’s take on the ULC project comes at a time when the company has planned five products for its solo foray in the Indian market. The Fluence sedan was introduced on May 3. It is looking at launching two sports utility vehicles, the Koleos and the Duster; a premium hatchback and another vehicle by the end of next year. These would all come from the company’s facility in Chennai.

The hatchback, to be pitted against the segment leader, the Maruti Suzuki Swift, is to be launched at the Auto Expo in January 2012. “The car would be positioned in the B to B+ segment. It has been specifically designed for Indian customers by engineers at our design centre in Mumbai,” said Klein.

Jerome Stoll, executive vice-president (sales & marketing), said: “The Indian automobile market is set to sell over six million vehicles (annually) by 2020. The potential here is huge. We want to offer the right products at the right value and establish ourselves as a key player.” The company is looking at selling 90,000-100,000 units in the Indian market in 2013-14, once all five products are launched.

Bajaj Auto and the alliance of Renault and Nissan had signed an understanding in 2008 to develop and sell a ULC car, to be priced below Rs 2 lakh. Bajaj Auto had promised the ULC would give 30 km to a litre but the technical specifications have not been disclosed. It has 50 per cent stake in the joint venture, while the foreign partners have a holding of 25 per cent each. According to the agreement, Renault and Nissan are to brand, sell and market the ULC being developed by Bajaj Auto.

Rajiv Bajaj, managing director of Bajaj Auto, had recently said the new four-wheel drive platform they were developing for the car could be used for commercial four-wheelers like a van as well, to build the new generation of three-wheelers. He had said the deal with Renault-Nissan was just “an icing on the cake” and he would be very happy being their original equipment manufacturer.