In what could mean the end of the road for the only potential rival to the world’s cheapest car Tata Nano, Japanese car major Nissan on Tuesday said its project for an ultra-low cost (ULC) car with India’s second-largest motorcycle manufacturer Bajaj Auto is off and there is no concrete project on the table.
Bajaj has a deal with the Renault Nissan alliance to manufacture a car for R1 lakh, touted as Nano’s first direct competitor but Nissan’s comments are the first indications that the RE60 unveiled by Bajaj in January this year, does not appeal to its palate.
“There is no concrete project with Bajaj,” said Toru Hasegawa, corporate vice-president, Africa, West Asia and India, Nissan Motor Company Ltd. “From my side at Nissan, yes it (the ULC project) is off.”
Bajaj on its part pleaded ignorance to the comments. It has in the past left it to Renault Nissan to decide whether they would like to market and sell the production ready avatar of the ultra-low cost car — RE60 — according to the agreement signed in November 2009.
“Since I’ve heard nothing (I) can’t comment,” Rajiv Bajaj, managing director, Bajaj Auto, told HT.
The saga to make another R1 lakh car has been nothing short of a soap opera. On numerous occasions either Renault or Nissan have cast aspersions to the feasibility of the project and the ability of Bajaj to deliver on it.
Bajaj had unveiled the RE60 in January projecting it as a four wheeler alternative to the 5 million three-wheelers in India and said it was not interested in the car market. Powered by a puny 200-cc rear mounted engine with a top speed of 70 kph, one of its biggest USPs was its 35-kmpl fuel economy, Bajaj had said.
Earlier this year, Nissan had revived its low-cost car brand Datsun that will introduce two cars each in India, Indonesia and Russia in 2014. Renault Nissan chairman Carlos Ghosn had said in March that a Nano competitor could also be developed by Datsun but added that no decision had been taken on the RE60 yet.
“There is a big chunk of the market where Nissan does not and cannot have any offering and Datsun would fill that gap,” Ghosn had said. “Yes, that will encompass ultra-low cost or $2,500 or $3,000 (R1.25-1.50 lakh) car as well. We want a car that will appeal to a motorcycle owner or a first time car buyer.....(and) is reliable and robust.” The first Datsun car would be made at Renault Nissan joint manufacturing unit at Oragadam near Chennai.