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After months of uncertainty, India’s second-largest two-wheeler manufacturer, Bajaj Auto Ltd (BAL), on Tuesday forayed into the four-wheeler segment with intra-city passenger carrier RE60.

Developed on the platform BAL had initially planned to use for its ultra-low cost car (ULCC), RE60 is expected to give a viable alternative to 500,000 three-wheelers plying on Indian roads.

BAL Managing Director Rajiv Bajaj said, “We have kept to our target of commercially launching the ‘four-wheeler’ in 2012. RE60 is not a car. The core customers for the product are those who use a three-wheeler.” Powered by a 200cc rear-mounted petrol engine, the vehicle delivers a mileage of 35 kmpl. It can run at a top speed of 70 km/h.
BAL had entered into an agreement with Franco-Japanese alliance Renault-Nissan in 2008 to develop and sell an ULCC that would be priced below Rs 2 lakh. While Bajaj Auto was to design and develop the vehicle, Renault and Nissan were to take are of branding, marketing and selling the product.

However, BAL said in November 2009 that the product would be aligned differently from the initial concept, as the ULCC was proving to be an unviable project.

Renault raised further questions on the introduction of Bajaj’s ‘four-wheeler’ last year. The company had declined to confirm its interest in the product, saying it was yet to see a prototype.

Jerome Stoll, executive vice-president (sales and marketing), Renault SA, had told Business Standard, “We have not seen the car being developed by Bajaj. We will take a decision on whether to partner in branding and marketing the vehicle only when we see the final product. The product has to be a vehicle and it has to be a car for us to go ahead with the agreement.”

Bajaj said on Tuesday while webcasts of RE60 had been shared with Renault and Nissan, the companies would only get to see the vehicle for the first time at the Auto Expo later this week.

“They have not seen the product. They have seen it only on virtual media. They will see it at the Auto Expo. If they are disinterested in the four-wheeler, they are free to walk away.”

Developed over four years, RE60 is scheduled for launch later this year. But the product may find its way to Sri Lankan shores much ahead of its commercial launch in the domestic market.

“We make about 500,000 three-wheelers a year, of which only 200,000 are sold in India. We see huge potential for the product in export markets of Asia, Latin America and Africa,” Bajaj added.

Source By Business Standard (Date:04/01/2012 Time:11:56 IST)

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