Updated: Apr 10, 2021
Rajiv Bajaj, Managing Director, Bajaj Auto Limited, has acquired a reputation for his pragmatic and often, frank, opinions that may not please all. His comments on the EV industry attracting the attention of every Tom, Dick, and Harry, with no expertise or understanding of the market dynamics had not gone down too well.
This was during the time Chetak Electric was launched in 2019. And in 2021, Bajaj Chetak does not seem to have made a mark, being placed ninth in sales of the EV, well behind the other players, some of whom he had mocked.
Rajiv Bajaj had relaunched the Chetak EV in 2019 after the ICE version was discontinued in 2005. There had been many nostalgic memories of the iconic and successful Chetak but Rajiv Bajaj had steadfastly refused to relaunch it, till 2019.
And even after relaunching the Chetak EV in 2019, he had remained dismissive about the impact of EVs and the background of the players who were venturing into the EV space in the Indian Automobile Market.
“I am surprised that battery, motor makers have launched electric vehicles and what surprised me, even more, is that some who were importing TV, fridge, mobiles have also started selling electric scooters. Whereas some other failed automakers have launched products in electric scooter space and some other two-wheeler makers went down south and invested in electric two-wheeler startups as if it was not their job. But we at Bajaj are engineers and we make our own things,” he said.
Further, he joked saying “I have seen the stock price of new startups going up because they are burning cash. So, this is our venture to burn cash and make our stock prices go up.”
Chetak EV was launched, it seemed, to tell the World that Bajaj too could make and was ready with an EV offering if the EV market picked up. However, the Chetak EV has not been delivered at all.
Only 111 units were sold in February 2021 Its market share too was a measly 1.83% and Bajaj occupied the ninth position in the pecking order. Amongst its competitors, Hero Electric sold 2201 numbers closely followed by Okinawa, Ampere, and Ather Energy.
Amongst the reasons for the failure of Chetak EV to attract attention are: an obsolete design and instrument cluster. However, the Chetak name still rings in the nostalgia and love for the old scooter.
With the Two Wheeler market steadily shifting towards scooters; and except for Bajaj Auto, all the other players including Honda, Hero Moto Corp, TVS, and even the smaller players including Suzuki and Yamaha having a product portfolio including scooters and motorcycles, the future could mean a continuous loss in-market presence in the Two Wheeler Industry for Bajaj Auto.
The EV industry is seeing a lot of interest and encouragement from the Government. All the major players are keeping their interests in developing products in the EV space. Bajaj Auto too could be forced to make developments and inroads into the EV segment thru the Chetak EV and other products.
Bajaj leads the market due to its strong export presence. But, maybe, this may not be enough.