This week in Auto: Hyundai unveils new SUV, Bajaj launches Qute

April 20
20:56 2019

Shared mobility concepts sound like a fancy urban term but have, in fact, been in practice for years. The humble and affordable auto rickshaw that sometimes seats way above its carrying capacity is one such classic example.

But since every idea has a shelf life, the auto rickshaw too faces competition.

A new segment called quadricycle is beginning to take shape which aims to change the idea of transport, especially in urban centres.

Our weekly wrap is based on this unique idea but here’s a list of all the major development in the automotive space of the week.

Renault bets on new launches

Led by its new head of operations, French carmaker Renault’s India unit is hoping to turn the corner and re-connect with its customers through new products.

Venkatram Mamillapalle (51), who took over as the company’s managing director on March 1, said Renault will launch four products, including two all-new models, over a course of 15-18 months, to resurrect its Indian operations.

Mahindra, Ford sign deal to make midsize SUV

Automaker Mahindra and Mahindra signed a deal with Ford Motor’s Indian unit to jointly develop midsize sports utility vehicles (SUV) in India, the company said on April 18.

Ford and affiliate companies will invest Rs 6.80 billion ($ 97.97 million) for the development of the vehicles over a period of 10 years, Mahindra said in a statement.

Hyundai unveils Venue SUV

Hyundai Motor India, the country’s second-largest car manufacturer, has unveiled the compact SUV Venue that will become its entry SUV product, to challenge the market leader Maruti Suzuki Brezza.

The Venue boasts of being India’s first connected SUV (internet aided) and will be manufactured in Chennai. Hyundai worked for two years to develop this technology and even partnered with Vodafone, for the same.

The Hyundai Venue, which will debut on May 21, and will be available in three engine variants.

Two-wheeler production falls to its worst in 5 quarters

Production of two-wheelers slipped to its lowest level in five quarters after manufacturers cut back heavily on output following a slump in retail demand.

Data shared by the Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers (SIAM), showed two-wheeler output during January-March of 2019 quarter at 5.4 million, a fall close to the levels of 2017 quarter of October-December, when the industry saw production close at 5.25 million.

All major two-wheeler manufacturers, with an exception of Bajaj Auto, reported a decline in sales volumes during FY19.

Honda recalls Accord to replace airbag inflators

Honda Cars India (HCIL) has announced a voluntary replacement of Takata driver airbag inflators in 3,669 Accord sedans manufactured between 2003 and 2006.

The exercise is part of Honda’s precautionary global recall campaign concerning Takata front airbag inflators. The replacement will be carried out free of cost at HCIL dealerships across India from April 18, 2019, and the company will communicate with customers directly.

Bajaj Qute gets one more state clearance

It’s not classified as a private car neither is a three-wheeled auto rickshaw, but is gaining ground steadily as an auto rickshaw with the fourth wheel.

Earlier this week, Maharashtra joined a tribe of five other states when it gave clearance for commercially launching India’s only quadricycle.

Mired in controversy for several years following multiple ligations, the Qute from Bajaj Auto is steadily becoming a reality on the streets.

This quadricycle which follows its own set of product regulations included in the Central Motor Vehicle Rules (CMVR) aims to replace the auto rickshaw.

Since the issue of allowing a class of vehicle to ply on its streets is a matter reserved for the states despite the central government giving its go-ahead, the Qute took considerable time to get launched, since not all states were on board.

Priced at Rs 2.48 lakh (ex-showroom, petrol variant) the Qute is about Rs 1 lakh more expensive than a standard auto rickshaw. But unlike an auto rickshaw which can also be owned as a personal vehicle, the Qute can be driven only for commercial purposes.

It has an engine that is almost identical to the Bajaj three-wheeler and Pulsar 200, but is tuned to a different requirement.

At 400 kilograms the Qute weighs more than a three-wheeler. However, Bajaj claims that the Qute delivers a much better fuel efficiency.

At 35 km/litre of petrol the Qute scores higher than the auto rickshaw which returns a mileage of about 20 km/litre.

The CNG version of the Qute priced at Rs 2.78 lakh claims to provide 43 km/kg compared to 25 km/kg clocked by a three-wheeler.

But will there be buyers?     

The Qute is designed to replace the three-wheeler. It requires its own driving license category which none of the existing owners of three-wheelers possesses. This means drivers will have to apply for the new class of license if they have to drive the Qute.

This represents an inherent challenge since not all three-wheeler drivers have valid driving licenses. Besides, the rickshaw union plays a significant part in the decision making process.

The Mumbai autorickshawmen’s union leader Shashank Rao, for instance, has already opposed the Qute’s launch.

Bajaj Auto is also India’s largest three-wheeler manufacturer. Moving three-wheeler buyers to the Qute could affect its three-wheeler demand.

Bajaj has a market share of more than 60 percent in the passenger three-wheeler space. However, the Pune-based company isn’t too worried about that, given the Qute is a superior margin product compared to the three-wheelers.

The Qute also makes its debut at a time when three-wheelers are going electric.

Mahindra and Mahindra, TVS Motors, Piaggio and Bajaj itself are either in advanced stages of launching an electric three-wheeler or have already launched them. The running cost of an electric auto rickshaw is one-sixth compared to a petrol powered rickshaw, though the initial buyout cost is slightly higher.

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