India’s newest auto rickshaw has four wheels and is called a quadricycle. It’s a covered vehicle (with a hard top and doors) that resembles a cross between a Mahindra (1st generation) Reva and a Tata Nano with the soul of an auto rickshaw.
Why a tongue-twister of a name? If it has four wheels, it should be called a car, a van, or a SUV right?
The answer lies in regulatory classification. A car/SUV/van (for private or public use) can be driven anywhere on Indian roads – inside and outside city limits. The government on Wednesday (May 22) allowed quadricycles to ply within city limits as modes of public transport. The government has also cleared the proposed 450 kg weight for quadricycles, much lighter than the earlier proposed 700 kg, and said the new vehicle class will have to meet the European Union safety norms.
The sole evangelist of the quadricycle is the market leading manufacturer of auto rickshaws – Bajaj. The company CEO (Rajiv Bajaj), which dubs itself as an anti-car company, is ecstatic because their investments in the RE60 quadricyle (showcased since early 2012) will start bearing fruit and they’ll have first mover advantage. There are all kinds of competitive overtones (especially from Tata Motors) in this Rediff article. Early pronouncements from Bajaj suggest that the RE60 might hit the roads within a matter of months.
Bajaj sold 2,26,131 three wheelers in the financial year ending March 2013 which represents 51% marketshare of the passenger three-wheeler market.
Powered by a 200 cc petrol engine with a top speed of 70 kilometre per hour and a mileage of 35 kilometers per litre, it’s expected to be a substantial upgrade over the 3-wheeler auto. The operative word being expected.
Will auto rickshaw drivers bite? This recently produced video (which features interviews with several auto rickshaw drivers) yields diverse opinions. More on that in a subsequent post.