Bajaj Auto would prefer designing and developing an electric vehicle locally rather than using an imported technical know-how to launch a half-baked product, a top company official of the Pune-based two-wheeler said.

Rakesh Sharma, Executive Director, Bajaj Auto said, “We are not looking at importing designs and slapping together a power-train to speedily enter the market with a half complete product. We would prefer that our products are designed to address specific use cases.”

The electric two-wheeler market is replete with multiple products mostly developed by start-ups that are 2-3-years-old. Some of these start-ups have struggled to meet commitments and consumer expectations. 

For instance, Bhavesh Aggarwal-led Ola Electric has taken flak repeatedly from its customers with many of them using the social media platforms to express their displeasure and disappointment. According to the posts, not only has Ola struggled to honour delivery timelines, but even the quality of its maiden electric scooter delivered to customers are below expectations.

The Ola S1 scooter is essentially a product designed and developed by a company based in Amsterdam named Etergo which Ola had acquired at the start of FY21. Ola is currently producing its scooters from a factory in Tamil Nadu which it claims is the world’s largest.

Ola created a furore in July last year when it announced the booking amount of its scooters to be ₹499. Back then neither did it specify delivery schedules to customers, nor did it commence production at its factory. Ola later claimed that it received over 100,000 reservations within 24 hours of opening the bookings.

“Despite the frenzy surrounding the whole subject (of electric vehicles), we are clear that we will choose certainty over speed to ensure we do not damage a nascent category (of EVs) and build a robust and dependable brand,” Sharma added.

Stalled by Covid

Bajaj Auto launched its maiden electric product, Chetak, in January 2020. The model’s nation-wide rollout was stalled by the Covid-19 pandemic which affected the component supply chain including batteries and semiconductors. The Pune-based company had to halt bookings and limit the roll-out to just two cities.

After reopening the bookings for the Chetak, Sharma claimed Bajaj Auto did experience cancellations because of start of bookings ‘by a competitor’. However, those cancellations came down after the product of the competitor was experienced by its customers.

“When the news of competitors was hitting the market in October-November, we did see some cancellations in booking. However, in December and January, when the performance of the competition was seen and experienced by customers, our cancellations dropped down to a trickle,” Sharma claimed.

While Bajaj Auto is ramping up output of the Chetak to 5,000 units a month in the June quarter, Sharma added the model has an order book of 10,000 units. In the December quarter, the company delivered 2,000 Chetaks. Chetak is the most expensive electric two-wheeler on sale in India.

Dependable brand

“We are able to carry very large level of bookings at the highest prices for extended periods. Hence, we are convinced that the most important thing for us is to establish Bajaj and Chetak as very dependable brands,” Sharma added.

Bajaj Auto is one of 115 companies who applied for the Champion OEM Incentive Scheme announced by the Centre. Under the Production Linked Incentive (PLI) scheme, the company intends to invest over ₹1,000 crore in five years including ₹300 crore investment in Akurdi, Pune for a new factory with a capacity of 5,00,000 units a year.