After the advent of the revolutionary Tata Ace in 2005, analysts believed the Indian 3 wheeler Industry would slowly be phased out and be replaced with efficient 4 wheelers. Even Industry Experts were betting big on bringing more 4 wheeler cargo/passenger trucks into the market. The more powerful, stable, upmarket & value for money 4-wheeled offering was a real scare for the 3 wheeler industry. The market changed drastically and slowly the sale of 4W numbers was higher than 3W. The industry also saw a steady decline in the year 2006 to 2008 as a resultant of aforementioned reasons. Suddenly the vehicle stability, long distance travel, interior space, higher payload, increased speed and car like comforts/driving were the value propositions sought by the Indian buyer.
As said and the done, the future was very different. The 3-wheelers suddenly emerged out of the grave and proved a valuable business proposition to the auto makers. The cognizance of the 3-wheelers was undeterred by the mighty 4-wheelers competitors. It grew manifold after 2008 and still is the first choice for the value conscious commercial vehicle seekers. The production almost touched 8 Lakh figures in F11 is the best example of its success story. So what is it that kept it alive???
Let’s start with a brief on the Indian 3 wheeler Industry:
The 3 wheeler market in India is over four decades old and is currently the largest 3 wheeler market in the world. Initially only 3 wheeled passenger autos were introduced. Later in eighties lower capacity cargo carriers were introduced – 0.5 Tons open body Pick-up van. Till late eighties, 3-Wheeler market was virtually ruled by Bajaj Auto Ltd. Late eighties – early nineties, new manufacturers developed higher capacity category by introducing 6 seaters & 0.75 Tons Cargo carrier. Late nineties saw a renewed interest in the 3-Wheeler market. Optimism about growing need of free mobility as well as the need for remote and efficient distribution of the goods and services was the key factors for the same.
The OEMs involved in manufacturing 3 wheelers –
Slowly according to the market requirements LPG & CNG variants were also launched. The stringent government regulations also threw out the diesel variants from the city.
The Segmentation of the industry emerged as follows –
Key Drivers to the sustainability and growth were:
1. Last mile transportation needs –
Its small turning radius, ideal for intra city operations and easy to drive in narrow roads made it the favorite for small distance load/passenger carriers. Its maneuverablity allowed it to pass through even smallest lanes of the town. High product maneuverability & driveability had been always ideal for congested Indian roads and tropical conditions.
2. Inadequate urban & rural public transportation infrastructure.
Infrastructure remained the biggest concern. Unavailability of structured roads/highways didn’t allow the 4-wheeled machines to bloom. The 3-wheelers still proved to be the fastest and most viable alternative to the narrow, pot-holed Indian roads.
3. Low initial ownership/acquisition cost
It is still the most economical vehicle in the commercial vehicle industry. Better mileage and Pickup Low maintenance cost along with amazing price and better load optimization made it the perfect choice! The low EMI’s stood as an attractive option and the easy availability of spares in the local market was another added advantage.
4. Self-employment opportunity
Various subsidies offered by the state governments encouraged the unemployed youth to openly accept this opportunity of owning it and make-a-living out of it.
Indian 3-wheeler market has seen its fair share of up and downs. Considering the exciting phases it has been through we had no doubt in calling it a ‘3-wheeled sprinter’ who has able to keep upto speed to the market requirements and has evolved to survive the dynamism/vulnerability of the Indian Automobile market. It’ll all exciting to track its growth/decline in times to come.