The Bajaj Small Car may not be a small car after all. According to company sources, the all-new RE60 which will be unveiled in Delhi on January 3rd is a ‘four-wheeler’ for commercial application. Bajaj Auto had unveiled its small car concept in 2008 which promised to be a Nano beater. However, Bajaj Auto’s Ultra Low Cost Car (ULCC) strategy has seen a change in direction and the result is a less ambitious four-wheeler ( that’s been upgraded from a three-wheeler) than a full-fledged passenger car.
The Renault -Nissan Alliance had shown interest in Bajaj’s ULCC but was never involved in the joint development of the product. The Alliance’s interest was limited to selling co-branded or badge engineered version of the ULCC but Renault had expressed reservations on this project early on its development. “We will first see what Bajaj has to offer before we decide future steps” said Marc Nassif, the managing director of Renault India, some months ago to Autocar India.
The design and development of the RE60 was done completely in-house but with limited experience with body-in-white engineering, Bajaj Auto took a conscious decision to stick to familiar territory rather than be out of its depth in its first serious foray in the four-wheelers space. Rather than work ‘top-down’ the way Tata Motors did with the Nano, Bajaj has relied on its experience with three-wheelers to develop what is in essence according to company sources ‘an autorickshaw with an extra wheel’
Hence the RE60 is expected to be launched as a bare bones four-wheeler with no doors and not much equipment. It is aimed squarely at the commercial vehicle segment and is expected to be used primarily as a better alternative to an autorickshaw than a private car. With an expected top speed of not more than 60-70kph, the RE60 is meant primarily for cities.
After making waves at the 2008 Auto Expo, the Bajaj Small Car or more correctly four-wheeler is quite a come down for a company that was hoping to offer the first true rival to the Nano. No doubt, future generations of the RE60 are likely to get more sophisticated and car-like once Bajaj Auto has got past the learning curve but for now the RE60 is more likely to be a rival to the Tata Magic Iris than the Nano.