At the 2008 Auto Expo, Rajiv Bajaj
, MD of Bajaj Auto, had surprised many by showcasing a mini car, which many believed would rival the Tata Nano. Six years later, he unveiled the U Car, surprising people again. In an interview with Swaraj Baggonkar,
Bajaj says the company is sticking to its anti-car strategy. Edited excerpts: In the past, you had said Bajaj Auto was an anti-car company.
We are staying true to our strategy, as I have always said very fundamentally, there are intra-city vehicles and inter-city vehicles. The products we believe are suitable for the intra-city model are two-wheelers and three-wheelers. Now, this is one more example of creating a new category, because honestly, while it has four wheels, I don't know whether it will be categorised as a three-wheeler, a four-wheeler or a car. So, once again, we are saying it's not a car, it's a U Car. In terms of emission and congestion, urban areas need a new solution and I think this is an example of one of the possibilities of such a solution. The RE60 is equally suited. Visually, this (U Car) looks sexier; people will be more attracted. I would say this may be as potent as the RE60, but for its own purpose. This may be commercial; it may be personal. That's why I say it is anti-car. The U Car will give double the mileage of a small car, will pollute half as much as a small car and, at the same time, provide better manoeuvreability than a small car.
Will it compete with the Tata Nano?
The Nano was positioned as the cheapest car. I have never agreed with that. Recently, Ratan Tata said it was a mistake. We are very clear when we present a design like this, it is not a question of one feature or other. For example, why did we go for scissor doors? Not only for the oomph element and the style quotient, but because the vehicle tapers towards the rear; so, when you squeeze and park, you just press the button and the door goes up. Even if there is a car next to you, you step out.
What cost and the effort went into the U Car?
A lot, a lot! We do not say those specifically, as it becomes very interesting for the competition to know. We had to create something totally new. When we showcase something, we don't do it for excitement or getting media attention. This is an engineered vehicle. Why does it have two wheels sticking out of its back? Somebody might say "yaar yeh theek nahi dikhta hai", but we are very clear we are a motorcycle company. It has to show its roots. So, for us, everything comes from a motorcycle and has to be done in an attractive manner.
Will it take two years for a commercial launch?
I won't say anything specific; I will say "in the near future". We will again go through a debate on the category, the approval, etc.
Is the product an entirely in-house development?
Yes, it has been done by us.
What are the engine specifications?
I won't say that…it will be very quick. See, the RE60 was more for utility, but the U Car is for performance.