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Thursday, October 17, 2019

Hamara Bajaj Chetak set to return in electric avatar !

Auto industry has been going through a slowdown, marred by a slack in consumption. This has taken a toll on auto stocks which have been in freefall lately.  Bajaj Auto NSE opened in the red following an important announcement; the  intraday fall also paused the stock's four-day winning streak.  Bajaj Auto shares were trading 0.5 per cent down at Rs 3,004 on BSE. In the last four sessions, the stock gained 4.76 per cent.

Till a couple of decades ago, most middle class depended on two-wheelers and scooters were once proud possession  ~ in fact were offered as dowries.   There was this nice advertisement  -  ‘Hamara Bajaj’ -  Bajaj scooters were selling hot – Bajaj dealers were minting money.   Bajaj had its plant at Akurdi [no longer vehicles roll out from here] ~ now it has at Aurangabad and Uttaranchal. … There was the premium Bajaj Chetak, Super, Cub, Viking and more… 100 cc and 150 cc scooters with engines mounted on the side. Chetak was launched in 1972 and ruled the market for decades.  People used to wait for years after booking, vehicles were sold at a premium, some said they got it by paying in foreign currency which was extremely scarce those days.  Those were the days of Bajaj scooters which had sort of forced Lambrettas out of the market;  Vijay, Lamby were the other names in Scooters while in motor cycles – it was  Rajdoot, Yezdi (Jawa) and Enfield Bullet.  With not many cars around, the 1980s & early 1990s were the age of two wheelers and their enthusiastic  riders.

Brand ‘Bajaj’ was an  internationally acclaimed one.  Bajaj Auto is one of the largest group founded in 1926 at the height of India's movement for independence from the British. Sri  Jamnalal Bajaj, founder of the group, was a close confidant and disciple of Mahatma Gandhi.  Later when the market expanded towards 100cc bikes, Bajaj was to partner Kawasaki and recently KTM too.  KTM Sportmotorcycle AG is an Austrian motorcycle, bicycle and moped manufacturer. The company was founded in 1934 by engineer Hans Trunkenpolz in Mattighofen. Unlike Bajaj’s utility scooters, KTM is known for its off road motorcycles though in recent years it has expanded into street motorcycle production. The term off-road refers to a driving surface that is not conventionally paved. This is a rough surface, often created naturally, such as sand, gravel, a river, mud or snow.

A couple of years ago, Bajaj Auto,  the second largest bike manufacturer in India  launched the second offering from the KTM stable, the Duke 390 for Rs 1.8 lakh (ex-showroom Delhi).  The Duke 390 combined 43.5 bhk (break horse power) of  peak power, 35 Nm (newton metre) of torque and a host of features like ABS, Metzeler tyres, aluminum swing arm, aluminum alloy wheels.  

in its peak – Bajaj Chetak was a premium brand.  “ Chetak ” was  named after the legendary horse of Raja Rana Pratap Singh.   It was launched in 1972 and ruled the market for decades.  People used to wait for years after booking, vehicles were sold at a premium, some said they got it by paying in foreign currency which was extremely scarce those days.  There were stories of it being unavoidable dowry in the mid 70s and early 80s.   A very sturdy simple one – those days in Bajaj vehicles,  the engine was mounted on one side and hence those owners touted that others would find it difficult to ride.  I remember taking delivery of Bajaj Chetak after paying Rs.16200/- [all inclusive on road on Jan 1990] –  and was so elated in owning it.

Now, Bajaj has become the first mainstream Indian motorcycle brand to enter the electric space. The launch of Chetak e version,  marks the return of Chetak after almost 14 years. Most of its peers were also trading in the red, pulling Nifty Auto index down 0.1 per cent. Exide Industries was the biggest loser in the pack down 2.5 per cent, even after the company said it will start the production of lithium-ion batteries from December targeting the emerging e-vehicle market.

With its electric avatar,  Bajaj Auto, which exited scooter segment years ago, has made a comeback in the category, using the name of one of its most-popular brands. The company plans to start selling electric scooters from January, starting from Pune and then will move to Bengaluru. Any further expansion will happen after the company analyses response to the product. The company did not disclose price of the new scooter — which does not carry the looks of the previous model — but said it would not be more than 1.5 lakh. On a single charge, the scooter comes with a range of 85 km on the sports mode and 95 km on eco mode. The charging time is expected at around five hours.

The e-scooter would be rolled out from the company’s Chakan plant and would be retailed from the company’s pro-biking dealerships which sell high-end motorcycles. The company also plans to export the model to various markets in Europe from next year. The e-scooter was unveiled by transport minister Nitin Gadkari in the presence of Niti Aayog CEO Amitabh Kant and Bajaj Auto MD Rajiv Bajaj. Interestingly, Bajaj had recently called plans for a complete switchover to electrics by 2025 as impractical and ill-timed, saying a large-scale transition will require time. Bajaj said it wanted to be the first mover in the segment as an established player in the two-wheeler industry.

Interesting !

With regards – S. Sampathkumar
17th Oct 2019.

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