Delayed, but a sure start for Qute

Murali Gopalan Mumbai | Updated on January 09, 2018 Published on November 29, 2017


The quadricycle has come a long way since the ULC concept with Renault-Nissan

The Qute has had quite a roller-coaster ride since the time its manufacturer decided to kick off the project over a decade ago.

At that point in time, Bajaj Auto had teamed up with Renault-Nissan to work on an ultra low-cost car. The trigger then was the Tata Nano which was making headlines across the world with its ₹1-lakh price tag and got the attention of Carlos Ghosn, the CEO of Renault-Nissan. It was from this point that the term ‘frugal engineering’ became fashionable from the viewpoint of meeting costing challenges in emerging markets.

The Nano got a massive reception at the 2008 Delhi Auto Expo and it was also the time Bajaj Auto showcased a concept car which also got a fair share of eyeballs. Naturally, there was a lot of curiosity on what the alliance with Renault-Nissan would eventually throw up except that the entire project was shrouded in secrecy.

Finally, when the RE60 was unveiled at the 2012 Auto Expo, it was a bit of an anticlimax to those who were expecting to see an alternative to the Nano. This was a quadricycle, a concept still alien in the Indian automotive space, which also meant that the originally planned ultra low-cost car had been shelved.

Renault moved on to work on the Kwid compact which debuted in 2015 as the challenger to Maruti’s dominance in this segment. Meanwhile, the Qute has been awaiting a green signal, while it has been launched in other countries.

Some rival automakers were vocal in their opposition to the Bajaj Auto reiterating that a quadricycle was a bad idea in a country which topped the world list in road deaths. Rajiv Bajaj said then that he was befuddled by the safety concerns on the RE60. “How a four-wheeler can be considered unsafe beats me when you acknowledge the presence of two- and three-wheelers on the road,” he wondered.

From his point of view, Bajaj Auto was pushing for better lives for autorickshaw drivers with four-wheels and seatbelts that the quadricycle offered. Even while the tug-of-war continued, time was ticking away while the public interest litigations only stalled tits entry. “The Qute is sold in Ethiopia and Sri Lanka but not here. How does India not understand that four wheels are better than three?” Bajaj had said at a press meet this year.

According to him, the Qute had been created to upgrade autorickshaw users to a safer four-wheeler and was essentially an intra-city vehicle. “It is the urban transport solution which will do wonders for decongestion. It also offers the advantages of safety and stability,” Bajaj had said in an earlier interaction. The stage is now set for its India debut and it will be interesting to see how the market reacts to the Qute.

Published on November 29, 2017
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