Bajaj Chetak had received good response at the time of its launch and it does seem to have potential. But then the pandemic happened and Chetak wasn’t able to gain momentum. It had to deal with lockdown and problems on the supply side, as several parts are sourced from China.
In recent months, however, things are looking up for Chetak. Sales have been continuously rising since July and in September, a total of 288 units were sold. The company has also sorted out most of the issues related to sourcing of parts from China.
As Bajaj is expecting increased sales in the future, it is proactively looking to setup an exclusive manufacturing facility for Chetak. This plant will also cater to the manufacturing of other electric products in the pipeline such as Husqvarna scooter and KTM scooter.
In an interview with CNBC-TV18, Bajaj Auto MD Rajiv Bajaj revealed that the company’s first choice for setting up the new plant was Maharashtra – as most of the plants as well as R&D is in the same state. Maharashtra govt had also allotted Bajaj new land, which was close to their Chakan plant near Pune. But there were some new developments with that plan, which has left Bajaj disappointed. This has resulted in Bajaj deciding to move out of Maharashtra for their electric scooter plant.
Bajaj is evaluating three production sites – Delhi, Bengaluru and Hyderabad. Talking about Delhi, Bajaj said that he feels encouraged by the favourable policies for EVs created by the Aam Adam Party government in Delhi.
Although Delhi may not currently be a huge market for electric two-wheelers, a plant in the city can cater to the needs of entire North India. Five to ten years down the line, electric scooter market is likely to grow significantly across the country. Bajaj is already in talks with Delhi government for the new plant for Chetak.
Talking about Bengaluru, Bajaj said that it is probably among the best options currently available. Not only are EVs more popular in the South, but the infrastructure there is better developed to support electric vehicles. Bajaj also considers Hyderabad as an attractive destination for developing a large EV manufacturing site.
It is expected that Bajaj will finalize the location for the new plant by first half of 2021. Once that’s done, setting up the plant can be completed in a few months. If everything works out as planned, Chetak’s new manufacturing facility will become operational by 2022. Production capacity of this new plant is at 5 lakh units annually. Till then, Chetak will continue to be produced at the company’s current facility in Chakan (near Pune).
In the next twelve months, Bajaj has plans to launch Chetak across the nation. Currently, the scooter is available only in Pune and Bengaluru. With the new plant, Bajaj will be able to meet both domestic demand for Chetak as well as its exports to international markets. Bajaj is India’s leading two wheeler exporter. They already have presence in more than 70 countries, so launching Chetak in global markets should not pose any major challenges for the company.