By on January 3, 2012

Today, Nissan/Renault’s Indian partner Rajaj introduced an ultra low-cost car. Actually, Rajaj does not call it a car. Rajaj calls it a “four wheeler.” An analyst called it an “upgraded rickshaw.” Rajaj thinks the analyst is right on target.

According to the New York Times, Rajaj is “aiming for drivers of rickshaws, which operate as short-distance taxis in India, by pitching them impressive new features like seat belts, doors and a hard top.”

The car rickshaw is called RE60 and putters on a one-cylinder, 200cc engine, which gives it a top speed of 70 kilometers per hour, or 43 miles per hour. Bajaj said the RE60 would deliver 35 kilometers per liter, or 82 miles per gallon. The price is still a secret.

The car rickshaw also is not the future Renault/Nissan ultra-low cost car, as erroneously reported. That car just went into development and should be ready within five years.

Bajaj managing director Mr Rajiv told India’s Statesman that representatives of Renault-Nissan alliance “have not seen the product yet and will be seeing it at the Auto-Expo. Once they see it, we will decide the way forward.” The Auto Expo is opening in New Delhi tomorrow. It doesen’t sound like Renault/Nissan will go for the motorized rickshaw. Reuters says that Renault “will announce plans for low-cost cars in India this year with Japanese affiliate Nissan, after weighing the alliance’s technologies against those of potential partners.”

In the meantime, the New York Times did its own market research amongst New Delhi rickshaw drivers:

“In New Delhi, several rickshaw drivers expressed ambivalence about the RE60 on Tuesday afternoon, saying they did not see much benefit in upgrading to four wheels. Suran Singh, who has been driving a rickshaw for 26 of his 40 years, said doors and a hard top would help keep out the cold during the winter but would make him too hot in the scorching Delhi summers.”


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9 Comments on “It’s Not A Car. It’s A Rickshaw...”

  • avatar
    fred schumacher

    It looks like Bajaj is following the lead of Tata, which already has their Iris Magic rickshaw. In research, Tata found that the number one wish for rickshaw drivers was a vehicle with four wheels rather than three. Four wheels in India provides a rise in status.

  • avatar

    I you meant Bajaj, with a “b”, not “Rajaj”.

  • avatar

    At least they admit it’s a rickshaw, unlike all the guys in Argentina who are right now planning to make this kind of stuff (including an updated Mehari) and calling it a “car”, even when they can’t be legally considered a car for several reasons.

    And I can’t believe Renault-Nissan is falling so low. First Dacia, then the Clio 2 rehash for Argentina and Brazil which they will attempt to sell as a new car (while cutting costs even further, so it’s going to be worse than the Lada Granta), and now making an updated rickshaw? What’s next, bicycles? (at least bicycles are zero emission)

  • avatar

    Well Nissan started out making stuff like this if anyone remembers the Datsun Bluebird and other small stuff. Something like the subaru 360 but bigger. The japanese taxis of the immediate postwar period. I think it comes under the heading of filling an existing need.

    If you fill enough needs you will make a batch of money. Hope they are successful. Chevy made a Nissan fan out of me years ago.

  • avatar

    one-cylinder, 200cc engine

    thats not even bigger than the Honda mower i used to have.
    wonder if India has any hills? Or can couple her to a 16 speed tranny it will climb every mountain.
    Sometimes engine too small will end up running her to hard, wearing out prematurely. Kind of a miracle to see 100k

  • avatar

    This is not a car, its a replacement for the the 3 wheeled rickshaw and I don’t think so Nissan-Renault will come forward to market this product.

    Target customers are Rickshaw drivers

  • avatar

    The Bajaj 200 cc motorcycle engine is licensed from Kawasaki, not Nissan.

  • avatar

    That’s no moon, it’s a space station!

  • avatar

    Yes, its Bajaj with a ‘B’, but perhaps Bertel’s idea behind calling it Rajaj was “Renault-Bajaj” since he does correctly use Bajaj later on.

    If you’ve ever been to India, you will realize that Autorickshaws are pretty much the sensible, economical and environmentally reasonable point to point transportation option in most congested Indian cities for the average person. Public transportation is not everywhere and even when present you might need the rickshaw to take you the “last mile”. Regular Taxis are too expensive and cannot dodge through crazy congested traffic as easily as rickshaws. The combination of the front single wheel and crucially a scooter handle bar (with clutch/gear shift) instead of a steering makes it very nimble and ensures that it doesn’t suffer the fate of the Reliant Robin. Of course they don’t have niceties like seat belts/crumple zones etc but then at the Indian city traffic speeds in side roads you don’t need them and they are a step up from much more dangerous two wheelers anyway. Having motor-cycle/scooter four stroke engines and very light weight chasis/drivetrains, they are quite fuel efficient. Rickshaws fulfill a very important transportation need in India.

    Now if all that works for a rickshaw, then why not make that into a private personal vehicle? As someone else mentioned, there is this image problem. In fact I have only once seen a private rickshaw even if it makes much more practical and safer option than a more dangerous two wheeler to ferry your kids. You will frequently find a husband, wife and two kids on one two-wheeler in India.

    I wish Bajaj all the best but this looks more like a solution looking for a problem. If a properly engineered small car like the Nano is struggling in India, I have my serious doubts about this. Folks who want to save money will just buy an old used Maruti 800 and still be somewhat safer and have more features. And if it is meant for rickshaw drivers then in addition to the issues mentioned by them in the article its not going to be maneuverable enough and would be more costly.

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