Bajaj REadies to create a new segment

An ideal replacement for autorickshaws or a new taxi, the RE60 concept reflects Bajaj’s philosophy of doing more as a leader in the three-wheeler space.

Autocar Pro News DeskBy Autocar Pro News Desk calendar 17 Jan 2012 Views icon4122 Views Share - Share to Facebook Share to Twitter Share to LinkedIn Share to Whatsapp
Hall number 18 at the 11th Auto Expo had two interesting OEMs as neighbours. On one side, Harley- Davidson’s stall was chock-a-block with camera and phone-toting enthusiasts clicking the heavy machines on two wheels. With two wheels more on its quirky and innovative RE60, Bajaj Auto attracted equally interesting comments and the automotive paparazzi.

Four years in the making, the RE60 is finally ready, after much has been talked and written about the Bajaj Auto-Renault-Nissan ultra low cost car (ULCC) that has been shelved. Bajaj no longer has a ‘car’ project, now. “We are like Apple. We believe in the niche. We do not want to be in the rat race,” says Rajiv Bajaj, managing director, Bajaj Auto. What the company is aiming at is to revolutionise the conventional autorickshaw market. The RE60 can create a segment between the three-wheeled autorickshaw and the conventional black-and-yellow taxi. There are an estimated five million Bajaj three-wheelers on Indian roads. Even a 10 percent replacement would translate to 500,000 units for the RE60. That’s also the number of three-wheelers that Bajaj plans to sell this financial year.

The RE60 will be aimed at export markets as well, perhaps with a higher success rate than the current three-wheelers. Rajiv says the first market to get the RE60 could even be Sri Lanka. That’s because the majority of Bajaj’s three-wheelers, which sell around 10,000 units a month there, are bought for personal use as well.

At 400kg, the RE60 is lighter than any other four-wheeler, and is only 83kg heavier than the Bajaj RE four-stroke passenger carrier three-wheeler. The lightweight body results in a high fuel efficiency figure and frugal CO2 emissions. “It delivered almost 40 kilometres to a litre of petrol during tests. Users should experience 35kpl or more,” says Rajiv. He also points out that the light body doesn’t come at the cost of safety. According to him, the body structure is seven times more rigid than a three-wheeler body. The vehicle uses a lightweight monocoque metal-polymer hybrid structure. “We are presenting an optimised solution for intra-city passenger transport. This vehicle has been designed for intra-city use, keeping in mind the intra-city duty cycles and safety requirements,” he says.

The RE60 is powered by an indigenously developed 200cc, water-cooled DTS-i engine which can deliver up to 20 horsepower. Bajaj Auto says its power-to-weight ratio is comparable to that of a small car. “The idea was to make a package that was light, have low emissions and with a limited speed because we don’t want this product to be used on the highways. At the same time, we have been more disciplined to what is the core of mass transportation and what is not. We have therefore taken away a lot of things that make other cars heavier and less fuel efficient. The aim was not to cut corners on things that really matter in terms of technology. But pricing was very important,” says Bajaj Auto’s chief technology officer, Abraham Joseph.

The RE60 is not a conventional ‘car’ and so fits in a category of disruptive innovations. Whether it succeeds in the market will be seen after its launch later this year, but it definitely is a reflection of management guru Jack Trout’s philosophy that “the leader should do more. It’s only right.” Being the world’s largest three-wheeler manufacturer, Rajiv Bajaj and his team are trying to practice the philosophy.

The RE60 is a product of pride for the 850-member strong R&D team at Bajaj Auto. “We have a structure that is like a matrix, so a large percentage of the entire team gets used. But they are used for certain durations of time. Like the powertrain team would be divided into five teams, one that is specialising in cylinder heads, some in basic block system, crankshafts, and when it all goes through, we fuse all of them,” says Joe.

The RE60 is still getting ready for production at the Aurangabad plant which currently churns out 45,000 three-wheelers a month.
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