Mumbai: The emergence of a new class of 4-wheelers has split the auto industry wide open. Even as countries like Singapore have expressed interest in Bajaj Auto's 4-wheeler the RE60, auto makers like Tata Motors say the move towards quadricycles is regressive.
Rajiv Bajaj hits back saying car makers are forcing the government to be anti innovation. CNBC-TV18's Sunanda Jayaseelan reports.
It may look like a car, but Bajaj Auto has always maintained that its 4-wheeler is an upgrade of the humble auto rickshaw, hence not in competition with small car makers like Maruti and Tata Motors .
It is estimated the RE60 could be priced between Rs 2-Rs 2.25 lakh and hence they may see this as a frontal attack into the entry level car market.
Bajaj has positioned the RE60 as the cleanest intra-city 4 wheeler with the lowest carbon dioxide emissions in the world with a top speed of 70km/hr and a claim of the highest fuel efficiency of more than 30km/litre.
The design and specification are in line with European quadricycle norms but Tata Motors is not impressed.
Karl Slym, MD, Tata Motors says, "In its current avatar is being talked about and I don't support it. So I think we are jumping to conclusions on bringing something into the market, without recognising where there is actually a need for something like that in the market."
Sources say Tata Motors is pushing for a much higher weight of the vehicle than the European norm of 450 kg, pushing it into car territory which Bajaj claims defeats the very purpose of a separate 4-wheeler category. Small car specialist Maruti has also expressed reservations.
Shinzo Nakanishi, MD, Maruti Suzuki says, "Regulations should comply with the existing norms of the four wheelers, that is our stance. There should be safety and emission as they are for all four wheelers."
While car makers like Maruti and Tata Motors may be pointing to safety norms as their biggest concern, analysts say the real concern could be the likely impact on their sales.
It is estimated the RE60 could be priced between Rs 2-Rs 2.25 lakh and hence they may see this as a frontal attack into the entry level car market. So, they want stringent conditions imposed including restricting the quadricylce as a transport vehicle with a meter, forcing a visual differentiation between quadricycles and cars with a specific colour and clear markings.
In an email to CNBC-TV18, Rajiv Bajaj says these suggestions are not only discriminatory but also anti free markets and innvoation.
He says "So we throttle free markets and innovation, sliding back to the good old days of license Raj & quota system? On the contrary, some zones such as city centres which suffer from the pollution and congestion caused by cars, should be accessible only by 2-wheelers, 3-wheelers, and 4-wheelers that is , quadricycles. "
As the war of words continues, CNBC-TV18 learns that the government committee put in place to arrive at the new regulations should be ready with its report shortly which will then be placed before the technical specifications committee housed in the roads and transport ministry.